Every year, rains bring a mix of cheer and misery. As soon monsoon arrives in Mumbai, the city stays in headlines for heavy rainfall and its waterlogged streets. Several cities across the country face a similar situation. Another thing that’s common in these cities during the monsoon season is the spread of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease.
Leptospirosis can even turn fatal if not treated on time. In 2017, 80 people in Kerala died of the disease, which is also called rat fever since rats are its most common carriers.
What is leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a rare bacterial infection caused by bacterium Leptospira (Spirachitus). It can be transmitted from animals to humans when an unhealed break in the skin, eyes, or nose comes in contact with water or soil contaminated with the urine of infected animals.
Some of the common sources of this disease are rats, dogs, horses, buffaloes, and oxen. It cannot be transmitted from one human to another.
What are the symptoms of leptospirosis?
Some of the most common symptoms are fever, chills, cough, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, muscle pain (particularly in lower back and calves), rash, red and irritated eyes, and jaundice.
In certain cases, leptospirosis can also lead to kidney or liver failure, respiratory distress, and meningitis, which can turn fatal.
What is the treatment?
Mild cases of leptospirosis can be treated using prescribed antibiotics such as doxycycline and penicillin. Hospitalisation along with intravenous administration of antibiotics is required in severe cases.
Patients may also require ventilator support if their lungs are affected, and dialysis may be necessary if kidneys are impacted by the disease, according to reports.
If the patient is pregnant, the foetus might also be affected. Such patients require constant medical attention.
The duration of hospitalisation can range between a few weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the infection and the patient’s response to treatment.
BMC issues advisory for Mumbai
Mumbai continues to receive incessant rainfall and several parts of the city have remained waterlogged since early this week. As people who walk through waterlogged roads can easily get infected with leptospirosis, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has issued an advisory and warned against a spike in cases.
"Citizens have to walk through stagnant or flowing water during heavy rains. The same water may contain the bacteria that could cause leptospirosis. If a person comes in contact with such contaminated water, he is more likely to be infected with leptospirosis," Dr Mangala Gomare, Executive Health Officer, told India Today TV.
What should you do?
People wading through floodwater must consult a doctor for prophylactic treatment of leptospirosis within 72 hours. Private practitioners have also been advised to start doxycycline for all fever patients during monsoon season to prevent other complications.
In case of a foot injury, people must avoid coming and going through stagnant water or use gumboots.
(Edited by: By Kanishka Sarkar)