Investigations by the civic body into each death caused by leptospirosis in the last 12 days indicate that at least 11 lives could have been saved had the patients taken medical aid earlier. Of the 16 people reported to have died at various civic hospitals, 11 of them died within 24 hours of hospital admission, indicating the narrow time frame for treatment to work at an advanced stage. Two other patients succumbed within three days.
The city is witnessing an unprecedented rise in leptospirosis cases following the heavy rainfall recorded between June 19 and the following two days. So far, 59 cases have been recorded since January this year of which 54 were reported in July alone.
“These 11 patients came late for treatment. We have been urging people to avoid self medication and visit nearest hospital,” said deputy executive health officer Dr Minnie Khetarpal, adding that the disease is easy to cure if treatment begins within first three days. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has put up 400 posters across Mumbai along with conducting 420 group talks to sensitise public on symptoms and treatment of leptospirosis.
On Monday, six new leptospirosis cases were recorded by the civic health department. However, these cases are from public hospitals alone and the actual count including private dispensaries and hospitals may go much higher.
Of the 16 deaths due to leptospirosis, at least four victims had a history of wading through water logged areas. According to health experts, the leptospira bacteria is found abundantly during the first Monsoon showers after which they get washed away. “The bacteria can enter the body through any opening or cut,” said Dr Rajan Naringrekar, BMC’s insecticide officer.
According to Dr Om Srivastava, consultant for infectious diseases, while delay in getting medical aid has definitely proved fatal for patients, he suspects a change in the leptospira bacteria may be another reason for such a high incidence in Mumbai. “Though we have to conduct molecular sequencing to ascertain that claim,” he said, adding that Mumbai may be providing a different habitat for the bacteria to multiply. Currently, the city is the only one to report such a high death toll due to the water-borne disease in Maharashtra.
According to doctors, leptospirosis’ initial symptoms, which may take three to 21 days to surface, are fever, back ache and head aches for initial four days. “The patient then starts to feel better for next three-four days after which the disease progresses into its next stage. It may include bleeding in eyes and problems in lungs and kidneys,” Srivastava said.