As Kerala is getting back on its feet following the deadly floods, the state is now faced with potential public health challenges, including leptospirosis. Since there is an influx in the number of cases, the state’s health department has issued a high alert in all the districts to take measures to prevent the spread of the water-borne disease.
On Monday, two deaths related to leptospirosis were reported taking the total toll to 19. Seventy one confirmed cases and 123 suspected cases were also recorded from various parts of the state on the same day.
Health Minister K.K. Shailaja, however, asked the people not to panic, but to be alert and take necessary precautions. The situation is under control and the state would maintain a vigil for another three weeks to keep a check on the cases, said the minister.
“Every hospital is stocked with all the required medicines,” Shailaja said.
As soon as the rescue operations got over, the health department has been asking the people to take note of the communicable diseases- leptospirosis (rat fever), viral Hepatitis, cholera, typhoid, and others.
Though at least 481 Primary Health Centres (PHCs), 137 Community Health Centres (CHCs) and 19 dispensaries were badly damaged in the floods, according to the state’s health and family welfare department, the hospitals have now been stocked with the necessary medicines to tackle epidemics. The state, that has always topped in the public health care system, has 18 general hospitals, 16 district hospitals, 231 CHCs and 682 PHCs.
Following the floods, the health authorities have asked all those who had come in contact with flood waters to take preventive actions for leptospirosis.
A.P. Suganan, an expert from the Indian Council of Medical Research, told earlier that as a matter of caution, all those who came in contact with flood waters, including those engaged in the rescue operations, should take the preventive treatment.
“There is no vaccine for this, instead everyone should take doxycycline once weekly for six weeks,” said Suganan. So, it is better to take all the possible measures to prevent leptospirosis.
However, on Tuesday, a cabinet sub-committee was informed that “except one, all those who have died of leptospirosis had not taken the doxycycline as directed by the health officers earlier” by Rajeev Sadanandan, Additional Chief Secretary, Kerala, who is also taking care of the Department of Health and Family Welfare.
According to Kerala health officials, nearly two million people in the state had come in contact with the flood waters and hence all of them should take the preventive action.
Leptospirosis, a zoonotic infection- which can be spread from animals to humans- is caused by a bacterium named Leptospira. The bacterium is transmitted through the body fluids of the infected animals or through direct contact with soil or water that has been contaminated with the infected animals’ body fluid. Among all these, rats and rodents are the main carriers of the bacterium.
As the state regains normalcy, the government has taken all the possible measures to ensure public health. The minister Shailaja has also asked medical officers to follow a 30-day micro plan to combat leptospirosis. The government expects dengue cases as well in the coming days and all the medical officers have been directed to carry out an intensive drive to eliminate mosquito breeding spots, she said. The minister has also sought the formation of “Arogya Senas”, each group covering 20 houses, in all panchayats to ensure proper chlorination of the water bodies.
The state government’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Project, in this August alone, had recorded 171 cases of leptospirosis with four deaths. However, only 46 cases were reported during the same period last year.
If we consider the case of viral Hepatitis A, 1,044 people have got the infection and it resulted in the death of four, whereas, there were only 988 infected cases in all of 2017. The state which had not had a single case of death due to chicken pox has seen 1,617 fresh cases in August this year, with one death.
(Inputs from IANS)