As the state of Kerala slowly rebuilds itself after the devastating floods, the state is now faced with the task of battling the outbreak of leptospirosis, or ‘rat fever,’ which is being reported in increasingly high numbers.
3 more deaths were reported over the weekend, taking the total death toll since August 1 to thirty nine. 42-year-old Prameela from Malappuram and 42-year-old Saleemsha from Kozhikode succumbed to the disease on Saturday and 34-year-old Vijeesh from Kozhikode died on Sunday. Currently,68 suspected cases and 33 confirmed cases of leptospirosis have been reported in the state.
On August 28, the state Health Department issued an alert in 5 districts, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Kannur following a sudden spike in suspected cases of leptospirosis in these districts.
Additional Chief Secretary, Rajeev Sadanand, confirmed to TNM that the alerts have been issued in most parts of the state, including Kasargod, which was previously not under any alert.
“Alerts have been issued in most of the districts. We are beginning to suspect that though people were instructed to take preventive measures and given doxycycline tablets for the same, many seem to not have taken the tablets, which is why we are probably seeing such a high influx of cases now. Either that, or there has been a rather high number of people who have been exposed to leptospirosis. Based on the case history, we are taking of the people presenting with symptoms. It seems as though most people did not come forward and take doxycycline as a preventive step,” he said.
He further added that doxycycline is only effective when given before the onset of symptoms and does not work once a person has contracted the illness.
Leptospirosis/Rat Fever Symptoms and Treatment
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the bacteria leptospira and is spread to humans through animals either through direct contact with the body fluids (usually urine) of an infected animal or through contact with contaminated soil or water.
The most common symptom of leptospirosis is persistent high-grade fever, which does not reduce. People also present with excessive fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and myalgia, or severe muscle pain.
Officials have stated that anyone exhibiting these symptoms should not delay getting treated and should go to the hospital immediately.
Doxycycline is merely a preventive medication and does not aid in treatment, “Penicillin is the choice of medication for treatment. We turn to alternative options only if someone is allergic to penicillin, or in the rare case that they do not respond to penicillin,” says Rajeev Sadanand.
Fake News Alert
A number of messages are allegedly being spread on WhatsApp and social media platforms, which are giving people incorrect information about preventive medication. Rajeev Sadanand cautioned the public to be aware of such messages and to not spread panic unnecessarily.
"We prepared ourselves for the worst following the floods, so there is no need to panic,” he said.