Friday, May 24

Nine deaths from ‘rat urine disease’


SIBU: Leptospirosis or ‘rat urine disease’ has claimed a total of nine lives in the state thus far where the total number of reported cases stands at 112.

According to the statistics from the state Health Department’s Communicable Disease Control Section (CPRC), for epidemiology week 19 (of 2013), one death each was recorded in Serian, Bintulu, Pakan, Mukah, Bau, Sibu and Lundu while Miri reported two deaths.

Bintulu division had the highest reported cases at 30 followed by Miri (20); Kapit (19); Kuching (13); Samarahan (seven); Sri Aman (three); Betong (one); Sarikei (six); Mukah (three), Sibu (six) and Limbang (four).

Asked on the nine fatal cases, state health director Datu Dr Zulkifli Jantan disclosed that the victims were not timber camp workers.

“There was a likelihood that they (some being housewives) came into contact with contaminated water. There is no outbreak of leptospirosis in the state at the moment,” he told The Borneo Post.

Leptospirosis was classified as a notifiable disease on Dec 9, 2010, under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.

On precautionary measures, Dr Zulkifli advised members of the public to drink only boiled water and well-cooked food.

As for residents staying near river banks or those depending on rain water as their source of drinking water, they must ensure that the water is properly boiled to kill harmful micro-organisms, he further advised.

“We advise people to seek immediate medical attention if they are down with fever, headache and vomiting, among others,” he reminded.

He pointed out that a person could become infected with leptospirosis by wading in floodwaters contaminated with the urine of rats or other animals such as pigs, cows, dogs, or any wild animals infected by the leptospira bacteria.

“Henceforth, it is crucial to note that in times of flooding, parents must ensure that their children do not play near the drains or wade in floodwaters as they may be contaminated with animals’ urine such as rats,” he said.

Dr Zulkifli explained: “People who have open or small wounds and wade in floods easily get infected with the disease, which is why it is highly recommended that they use the necessary protective gears such as wellington boots before wading in floodwaters.”

He stressed that it was most important to maintain a clean environment at all times to keep out disease-bearing pests.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial zoonotic disease caused by spirochetes of the genus leptospira that affects humans and the symptoms may only appear after a two to 10 days incubation period (time of exposure to first symptoms).

Meanwhile, information obtained from the department’s website stated that humans become infected when exposed to water, food, or soil contaminated with urine of infected animals such as rats, cats, dogs, cows, goats, pigs, horses and wild animals.

On symptoms of the disease, it stated: “The disease shows a variety of clinical symptoms. Among the symptoms of leptospirosis infection can be shown by the patient are high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, inflammation of the eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cough and a rash on the skin.”