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After Nipah virus and floods, Kerala now grappling with rat fever menace; Over 20 dead

By Vikas

Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 3: As Kerala is slowly coming to terms with the devastating floods which wreaked havoc in the state, a new problem is rearing its head. Over 20 people have reportedly died due to Rat Fever, also known as leptospirosis.

Representational Image

Leptospirosis is an infection caused by corkscrew-shaped bacteria called Leptospira. Rats, mice, and moles are important primary hosts of this bacteria. The incidence of leptospirosis correlates directly with the amount of rainfall, making it seasonal in temperate climates and year-round in tropical climates.

Kozhikode has registered a total of 17 leptospirosis deaths from August 1 to September 2 which include six confirmed and 11 suspected deaths. On Sunday, four deaths including two confirmed and two suspected were reported from the district, reported TOI.

Minister for Labour and Excise T.P. Ramakrishnan told the media after a review meeting that an 85-bed isolation ward would be set up at the Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode, and special facilities were being provided at the Government General Hospital in Kozhikode and government hospitals in Vadakara, Koyilandy, and Feroke as part of efforts to contain the outbreak, a report by The Hindu said.

Health Minister K.K. Shailaja advised people in the flood-hit areas to take precautions. She said contagious diseases were on the rise in post-flood Kerala.

On Saturday, three north-central districts and low-lying Alappuzha reported a total of nine casualties due to the Rat Fever.

Last month, 559 people took treatment for rat fever across the state. Of them, the disease was confirmed in 229 cases.

In April-May this year, Kerala saw an outbreak of Nipah virus which claimed around 25 lives.

[Nipah virus threat: AIIMS team camps in Kerala, Nadda urges everyone to stay alert]

How does Rat Fever or Leptospirosis spread?

Leptospirosis is transmitted by the urine of an infected animal and is contagious as long as the urine is still moist. Although Leptospira has been detected in reptiles and birds, only mammals are able to transmit the bacterium to humans and other animals. Rats, mice, and moles are important primary hosts-but a wide range of other mammals including dogs, deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, cows, sheep, swine, raccoons, opossums, skunks, and certain marine mammals carry and transmit the disease as secondary hosts. In Africa, the banded mongoose has been identified as a carrier of the pathogen, likely in addition to other African wildlife hosts. Dogs may lick the urine of an infected animal off the grass or soil, or drink from an infected puddle.

[Health Ministry issues advisory to contain spreading of Nipah virus]

House-bound domestic dogs have contracted leptospirosis, apparently from licking the urine of infected mice in the house. The type of habitats most likely to carry infective bacteria includes muddy riverbanks, ditches, gullies, and muddy livestock rearing areas where there is a regular passage of wild or farm mammals. The incidence of leptospirosis correlates directly with the amount of rainfall, making it seasonal in temperate climates and year-round in tropical climates. Leptospirosis also transmits via the semen of infected animals.

Humans become infected through contact with water, food, or soil that contains urine from these infected animals. This may happen by swallowing contaminated food or water or through skin contact. The disease is not known to spread between humans, and bacterial dissemination in convalescence is extremely rare in humans.

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