Leptospirosis on The Increase

by  Linda Sraker

Dr Francis Martin, Senior Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, has disclosed that there are growing cases of Leptospirosis — a disease that is transmitted by rats — through direct contact or by consuming foods that have been urinated on.

Martin said the disease is endemic in Grenada but what has been observed over the years is an increase in the number of fatalities. “This year so far, we have had 11 cases with 10 of them being confirmed,” said Martin who explained that normally the count per year is between 3 to 6 cases.

He said the signs and symptoms could range from a mild temperature with headache, chills and muscle pains to actual shutting down of the organs. “The bacteria infect humans through breaks in the skin or mucous membranes or when people ingest them,” he said.

The signs and symptoms of Leptospirosis usually appear suddenly, about 5 to 14 days after infection, but the incubation period can range from 2 days to 30 days.

Signs and symptoms of Leptospirosis:

  • Chills
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhoea
  • Severe Headaches that may start suddenly
  • Jaundice
  • High fever
  • Muscle pain, particularly lower back and calves
  • Nausea
  • Poor appetite
  • Red and irritated eyes
  • Skin pain

The bacteria multiply in the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Some patients may develop kidney or liver failure, respiratory failure, meningitis, or even death. Person-to-person transfer of this disease is rare.

“It must be noted that only through blood tests that a diagnose can be made because its symptoms are similar to others diseasses such as Dengue and Zika,” Martin said.

Once diagnosed in the early stage, a person suffering from Leptospirosis can survive with the proper medical treatment. Martin said that Grenada does case survival cases.

Bertrand Munro, Senior Plant Quarantine/Plant Protection Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, said that rats are sharing the same space with humans, and are always looking for food and shelter. “The challenge for food and water become greater following excessive rainfall from hurricanes and floods, and as they search for food and shelter they choose to infest homes and eat produce, but they are unwelcome guests because they pose a danger to human health,” he warns.

Every effort he said should be made to rid the rodents from homes in particular, and he advises that proper sanitation is the key to controlling the pest.

Recently, the UNDP/GEF funded Ridge to Reef project began a series of programmes educating the public about the dangers of rodents as a component to its wider focus on sustainability and livelihood.

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