What is leptospirosis or rat fever? People of the rain-ravaged state of Kerala has gone through a lot over the few months and is facing a new challenge. As the water started to recede in the flood-hit areas, different types of diseases, including leptospirosis, broke out and claimed several lives. According to reports, 123 people had approached various hospitals in the state with suspected symptoms of the disease, out of which a total of 71 people tested positive for ‘rat fever’ or leptospirosis, according to a PTI report.The Leptospirosis or rat fever has claimed 17 lives in the state, accoriding to Indian Express report. Officials stated that treatment for various types of fever was taken by more than 13,800 people in the state. Out of this, there were 21 suspected cases and 11 confirmed cases of dengue have been reported in Kerela.
What is Leptospirosis and how does it spread?
Leptospirosis, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is a disease that is detected in areas that have witnessed excessive rainfall or flooding. It is caused by bacteria that belongs to the genus Leptospira. The bacterias of Leptospirosis are transferred to humans when they get in contact with water that is contaminated with the urine of infected animals. It can be transmitted through cuts of the skin, or through the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth. It can also be communicated through drinking water or the ingestion of contaminated food. Only in very rare cases, Leptospirosis is transmitted from one human to another. The risk of Leptospirosis infection depends upon the amount of exposure.
The increase of exposure in an area is due to flooding. The people who are at a high risk of infection include pet shop workers, veterinarians, military personnel, survivors of natural disasters, agricultural workers, abattoir workers and meat handlers as per WTO.
Symptoms and signs
It takes a period of 5 to 14 days for Leptospirosis to incubate. Its symptoms include mild ‘flu-like’ signs that can turn serious and sometimes fatal. It has symptoms that are similar to other diseases like dengue, typhoid and viral hepatitis, which makes it difficult to diagnose it clinically. However, Leptospirosis is self-limiting and in majority cases, it causes causing no noticeable signs or symptoms. In only 5-15 per cent of untreated cases, the Leptospirosis takes a turn for the worse where it can progress to a more severe and potentially fatal stage.