Tuesday, May 18

Leptospirosis killed 6 people so far this year


Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King, secretary Hii Chang Kee and SMC staff urging the public to get rid of rats during ‘Rats Control Campaign’ last August in this file photo.

SIBU: Six people died of ‘leptospirosis’ as the state raked up 104 cases of this rat urine disease as of March 22 this year.

According to statistics from the state Health Department’s Communicable Disease Control Section for Epidemiology (Epid) Week 12, two of the fatal cases happened in Miri, and the rest in Bintulu, Kuching, Sarikei and Meradong.

Three cases of ‘leptospirosis’ were reported during Epid. Week 12 (Mar 16 to 22) at Saratok, Sibu and Bintulu, and one cluster of this disease was reported in Limbang during this period.

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

State Health director Datu Dr Zulkifli Jantan has advised the people to maintain their surroundings well in order to keep rats and other harmful pests out.

On risk factors, he said this included occupations that exposed workers to farm animals, wild animals, and contaminated water and soil.

He cited farmers, slaughterhouse workers, veterinarians, miners, military personnel, disaster workers and victims as examples.

“People involved in outdoor activities like camping or kayaking are also at higher risk of infection.

“Besides this, any exposure to sewage or animal waste increases risk of getting ‘leptospirosis’,” said Dr Zulkifli in an email to The Borneo Post.

Leptospirosis had also been reported after episodes of flooding, he noted.

Symptoms included high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea and rash.

He explained that the time between a person’s exposure to a contaminated source and becoming sick ranged from two days to four weeks.

“Illness usually begins abruptly with fever and other symptoms.”

Dr Zulkifli said blood tests could also confirm the diagnosis by looking for evidence of the bacteria in a patient’s bloodstream.

On treatment, he noted that antibiotics were usually prescribed as soon as possible after ‘leptospirosis’ was diagnosed.

In mild ‘leptospirosis’, antibiotic tablets might be all that was needed, he said.

On preventive measures, Dr Zulkifli said the best way to prevent ‘leptospirosis’ was to avoid contact with potentially infected animals and contaminated soil and water.

Avoid swimming or entering water that might be contaminated with animal urine, he reminded.

He suggested those workers who work with animals to wear protective clothing and equipment such as gloves, footwear and others, and to adhere to strict hygiene and cleanliness, including meticulous hand washing after exposure to animals.

“Surrounding maintenance such as proper disposal of rubbish could help keep rodents at bay.”

Last year, the Ministry of The Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government initiated a nationwide rat catching programme involving all local councils in the country to reduce the population of the vermin.