NewsDesk @bactiman63

Since the beginning of the year, 99 cases of leptospirosis have been reported, including 43 in March and 35 cases in April, according to the Regional Health Agency (ARS) of Reunion.

Image/Robert Herriman

Among the 99 cases, 18 people were admitted to the intensive care unit and  one person died of the disease.

In 2021, 74 cases of leptospirosis were declared during the same period, requiring hospitalization for the majority of them. In previous years, more than fifty cases were recorded each year.

The rainy season is the period most at risk because it presents favorable temperature and rainfall conditions for the survival in the environment of the bacteria responsible for this disease. Episodes of heavy rain promote soil leaching and environmental contamination and are therefore periods of particular risk.

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Leptospirosis is a serious disease, caused by a bacterium often present in rats or other rodents. The disease is contracted during contact with a humid environment contaminated by the urine of these infected animals (mud, puddles, stagnant water at the edge of gullies).

The bacterium enters the body through the skin in the event of cuts or wounds (even small ones). After 4 to 14 days of incubation, leptospirosis manifests with the following symptoms (which can be easily confused with dengue or Covid-19 infection):

  • sudden high fever (often > 38.5°C),
  • muscle and joint pain,
  • abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting,
  • headache.

The disease may get worse after a few days. If not treated in time with antibiotics, it can be fatal.

The vast majority of cases identified on the island are related to the practice of activity:

  • gardening,
  • leisure activities in fresh water (fishing, swimming in the river or pool, white water sports)

Most people have unprotected wounds or lack sufficient protection (boots, gloves, goggles, coveralls, etc.).

Simple measures make it possible to effectively limit the risks of contamination:

  • Apply individual protection measures:
    • use appropriate equipment (gloves, boots, coveralls, etc.)
    • protect and disinfect wounds
    • postpone freshwater recreational activities in case of cloudy water
    • do not walk barefoot or in slippers in stagnant or muddy water
  • Fight against rats:
    • regularly maintain your yard (no bulky items or waste conducive to the proliferation of rats, etc.)
    • eliminate all food sources (including animal food scraps)
  • Respect bathing bans in places marked at risk.

These preventive measures must be applied especially after periods of heavy rain because the risk of contact with contaminated wetlands is then greater.