Kerala’s Kasargod district reported that one person had died due to rat fever on Friday, but it was confirmed only later that it was due to the infection. The death of 55-year-old B Koran, a resident of Badur colony in Thayannur area of the district, has taken the death toll to 59 in the state, as of Thursday morning.
The state health authorities had expected to see an influx in the number of cases of water and mosquito borne illnesses, following the deluge in the state.
Leptospirosis, or ‘rat fever,’ has been reported in increasing numbers since the flood receded. A number of people are presenting at hospitals with symptoms of high grade fever, severe muscle pain (myalgia), headache, nausea and vomiting. Those who are suspected to have contracted rat fever are admitted and further workups being done as needed.
A few cases of leptospirosis are usually seen around the monsoon season, however the devastating floods which recently wrecked the state have resulted in a massive spike in the number of cases which are being reported.
Though officials urged that all those who had been exposed to flood waters take preventive medication in the form of doxycycline tablets, several people turning up in hospitals and clinics with symptoms of the fever, are giving a history of not having taken the prescribed preventive measures.
Leptospirosis is caused by the bacteria leptospira. It is shed in increased volumes in the secretions of an infected animal. While rats have been identified as a common host, giving rise to the name ‘rat fever,’ the infection can spread from other infected animals as well. When the secretions are shed in water or soil and someone comes in contact with them, they render the risk of developing the infection. Authorities have speculated that stray dogs or cows may also be infected and could be contributing to an increase in the number of infections in Kerala, post floods.