Since August 15, nine people have been killed by leptospirosis or rat fever in the flood-ravaged state of Kerala. Among them, five were relief workers.
Notably, 196 cases of leptospirosis have been reported so far, and a further 37 suspected leptospirosis deaths are awaiting laboratory confirmation.
It's believed that the floods have led to a spike in leptospirosis cases in the state.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that people contract when they wade or swim through water that is contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Symptoms include high fever, bleeding, chills, vomiting, headaches, muscle pain etc. Treatment generally involves doses of antibiotics.
It's worth noting here that leptospirosis is a disease that is rather prevalent in Kerala, and from January 1 to September 1, there have been 788 confirmed cases resulting in 38 deaths.
However, it's highly likely that the spike since August 15 is resultant of the floods, as sewer water with infected rodent urine became quite commonplace owing to widespread flooding in the state.
The hypothesis that the floods are responsible for the spike in leptospirosis cases since August gets more backing from the fact that a similar situation was seen in Mumbai following widespread flooding in the city in 2017.
However, owing to leptospirosis being endemic to Kerala, there's a higher chance of the disease spreading to other people.
"There is no need of panic but we have to be extra vigilant for at least three weeks. I have instructed health officials to engage with relief workers only after taking doxycyline tablets," said state health minister KK Shailaja on Monday.
Since flood waters started receding, the Kerala health ministry, fearing a rise in water-borne and vector-borne diseases, had rapidly set up health assessment teams across the state to prevent and control disease outbreaks.
Although leptospirosis cases have soared, dengue and chikungunya have spared Kerala so far.
However, with flood waters receding and creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes, there's a possibility of dengue cases increasing.
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