Leptospirosis claims three lives in Mumbai: Here’s all you need to know about the bacterial disease

In a span of 5 days, Mumbai witnessed three deaths suspected of leptospirosis. A 28-year-old resident of Govandi, Imtiaz Mohammed Ali died on June 26 at the civic-run Sion Hospital. Ali was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital on June 23 for severe fever, chills, headache and joint pain. However, a senior civic health official maintained that the cause of death will only be confirmed after the epidemiology death review committee report. While on June 25, a 15-year old Kurla resident succumbed to the bacterial infection in the same hospital. The teen Parab Ramesh Kale used to travel to his school at Chembur. On June 22, before going to school he played football in a muddy ground. The civic officials suspected that the boy must have come in contact with the Leptospira bacteria while playing football in the rain. He was admitted to the hospital on Sunday but his condition worsened within a day. After his death, a polymerase chain reaction test was conducted at the hospital that confirmed that Kale was suffering from leptospirosis. A 21-year-old Malad resident became the third victim of leptospirosis. As per the report of BMC’s health department, the 21-year-old woman died on June 27.

According to the Maharashtra Public Health Department, Maharashtra recorded 20 cases of Leptospirosis from January to June 2018. While Mumbai records the maximum with 12 cases. The disease has claimed seven and nine lives in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Here are few things you need to know about Leptospirosis.

What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a water-borne bacterial disease caused by the bacterial Leptospira and spread through the urine of infected animals, prevalent during the rainy season. Flooding from heavy downpours increases the risk of contracting the disease as people may have to wade through contaminated water.

“Leptospirosis is the infection caused by the bacterium Leptospira. It is usually spread through urine and feces of rats and dogs and it is especially rats when it is flooded. When rats pass stool or urine in water and if a person happens to go through that water and has some open wounds in the leg the chances of getting leptospirosis are very high. In villages, it happens to farmers since there are lot of rats in the field and when the farmers go to plow that is where they get infected. In Mumbai the chances of the disease is only when it is monsoon or when it is flooded,” says Dr Behram Pardiwalla, Internal Medicine Expert, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai Central. The disease has an incubation period that ranged from four to 21 days. It affects both humans and animals.

Signs and symptoms of Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis causes a range of symptoms including high fever, muscle aches, and abdominal pain. There are cases when the bacteria may have no symptoms at all. Sometimes people develop jaundice in the early stages. In the later stages, everybody has jaundice. Get in touch with your doctor if you observe any symptoms otherwise it may result in serious illnesses. Here we list a few signs and symptoms of leptospirosis.

  • High fever
  • Intense headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chills
  • Conjunctival suffusion
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash

Is leptospirosis curable?
Yes. Leptospirosis is curable. It is advised to consult a doctor as soon as you come across any symptoms mentioned. The disease is treated with antibiotics – doxycycline or penicillin. In some cases, intravenous antibiotics are also used. “The first thing is the diagnosis. If you have a high index of suspicion or you suspect leptospirosis right in the beginning you can get proper treatment with oral antibiotics or injectable antibiotics. It is only when the patients are serious then he develops liver failure, respiratory failure or low platelet count. You have to treat the patient very early on,” adds Dr Pardiwalla.

Who are at risk to contract the disease?
Here’s a list of occupations that are at high risk to contract the disease:

  • Farmers
  • Sewer maintenance workers
  • Sailors on rivers
  • Waste disposal workers
  • Slaughterhouse workers
  • Kayakers

Tips to prevent Leptospirosis

  • Avoid walking through flooded streets because the moment you do so the chances of getting infections are there especially if you have any wound in your feet. If you had to walk through a flooded area, then immediately on reaching home wash your feet with soap and water and if you have any cuts it is better to take antibiotics.
  • Cover cuts/wounds with waterproof bandages.
  • Whenever you have fever especially in the monsoon you should always approach a doctor and not ignore it considering a regular cough and cold.

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