Updated: July 15, 2019 5:43:57 pm
A 26-year-old woman is suspected to be the first victim of leptospirosis in Mumbai. As a bacterial infection that spreads through animal to human contact, it is considered to be one of the world’s most widespread diseases transmitted by animals to humans. The infection is generally transmitted to humans by water or food that has been contaminated by animal urine after it comes in contact with unhealed breaks in the skin, the eyes, or with the mucous membranes.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the infectious disease is caused by bacteria belonging to the genus Leptospira. The disease is detected in areas which have witnessed excessive rainfall or flooding. The diseases can also affect animals, including pets. However, human-to-human transmission occurs very rarely.
The bacteria that cause the zoonotic disease can get into soil or water and can survive there for weeks or months through which they are transmitted to animals. The risk of infection from leptospirosis depends upon the amount of exposure.
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Some people run the risk of high exposure owing to the environment in which they live or work. Due to flooding, the area of exposure increases. According to the WHO, the main occupational groups at risk of leptospirosis include agricultural workers, pet shop workers, veterinarians, sewer workers, abattoir workers, meat handlers, military personnel, survivors of natural disasters.
Signs and Symptoms
The incubation period of leptospirosis is between 5 to 14 days. According to the National Health Portal of India (NHP), in most of the cases, ‘leptospirosis only causes mild flu-like symptoms, such as headache, chills and muscle pain’. However, in some cases the infection is more severe and can cause life-threatening problems, including organ failure and internal bleeding. A severe form of leptospirosis is known as Weil’s disease.
Leptospirosis is often difficult to diagnose clinically, as it can appear to be very similar to many other diseases such as dengue, typhoid and viral hepatitis.
A blood test is done to detect antibodies for the bacteria while other tests include Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA); Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and MAT (microscopic agglutination test) which is a serological test and is considered the gold standard in diagnosing leptospirosis.
Across Mumbai till June 25, five leptospirosis cases have been recorded in the month. The health department has recorded 273 cases of H1N1 so far. With a dry spell in the last few days, doctors said the weather had become conducive for leptospira bacteria to grow.
Leptospirosis can be treated with medicines like Ampicillin, Azithromycin, Ceftriaxone, Doxycycline and Penicillin according to NHP.
Since there are no WHO pre-qualified vaccines currently available, measures to prevent transmission of leptospirosis should be taken.
Here are some measures suggested by NHP:
*Wear protective clothing like masks.
*It is ideal to cover skin lesions with waterproof dressings.
*Enough awareness about water bodies which are known or suspected to be contaminated such as pools, ponds, rivers. It is also good to avoid wading or swimming in potentially contaminated water.
*Wash or shower after exposure to urine splashes or contaminated soil or water.
*Wash and clean wounds.
*Avoid urine splashes and aerosols while touching ill or dead animals or assisting animals in giving birth.
*Strictly maintain hygienic measures during care or handling all animals.
*Where feasible, disinfecting contaminated areas (scrubbing floors in stables, butcheries, abattoirs).
*Consume clean drinking-water.
📣 The above article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional for any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.
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