The civic body seems to have found the answer to the unusual leptospirosis epidemic that plagued the city, which has recorded a high number of deaths this year. A two-part sample collection process of close to 200 cattle heads — cows, bulls and buffaloes — and laboratory tests confirmed that the animals spread across various shelters in the city were majorly responsible for spreading the bacteria that has claimed 18 lives so far this year.
According to the report prepared by the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Chennai, which assisted the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in the exercise, 25 per cent of the total urine samples randomly collected from the animals in September tested positive for leptospira bacteria. Primary findings showed that the urine and excreta had not been handled with precaution and allowed to be washed away on roads causing the infection to spread to people. Experts claimed that rainfall helped mobilise the bacteria further, especially in waterlogged areas.
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The BMC is now mulling over methods to contain the infection from spreading outside the shelters. “We are thinking of either introducing a vaccination programme for the cattle or issue guidelines for the stables (shelters) to handle waste generated by the cattle,” said a senior official. Data gathered from the BMC health department showed that the bacterial infection had so far affected 121 people and killed 18 in Mumbai since its outbreak in June this year. Apart from Mumbai, 119 cases and one death have been reported from across the state. “The cases are high only in Mumbai, which is unique this year. In the entire state, the incidence has been on expected lines,” said state epidemiologist Dr Pradeep Awate.
Last week, BMC’s Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh and K West Ward Commissioner Parag Masurkar had visited two animal shelters in Andheri West for surprise inspection. A senior official admitted, “A lot of unhygienic practices were noticed in the stables. There is no management for excreta or urine. It is either dumped straight into the civic drains or washed off with water and passed to collect by roadsides.” BMC data also showed that at least 10 leptospirosis deaths were reported from suburbs. “In Dahisar, there are three big stables. All three eject waste material into the river without treating it. Most of the stables are in the suburbs, which is why leptospirosis cases are higher in the suburbs,” said BMC Leader of the House Trushna Vishwasrao.
According to an official from the Deonar abattoir, cattle have been the major source of leptospirosis spread followed by rats and dogs. “In Deonar, there is no problem of this infection as animals stay here temporarily. The fear of infection is more in stables where animals reside permanently,” he said.
tabassum barnagarwala@ expressindia.com