India: Kerala faces new threat of rat fever

Indian state of Kerala is now faced with a fresh challenge of a deadly spread of highly infectious disease like leptospirosis or ‘rat fever’. Torrential rains and the resulting floods were the worst to hit the state in a century leaving 500 people dead and displaced nearly 1 million destroying buildings, houses, major roads and bridges.

Ever since the rains abated in August, 34 deaths have been reported which are suspected to be due to leptospirosis. Another 515 suspected cases have been taken in hospitals while 196 have been confirmed in last 17 days. Rat fever symptoms range from high fever, strong muscle and abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. As the primary host of the disease are rats so the name is rat fever and is usually a direct consequence. Cattle and dogs are considered as secondary hosts of the same as after they catch infection, it passes to their urine which then gets the bacteria. Floods have led to death of many animals which were infected and thus the level of bacteria is very high in water.

The disease outbreak has alarmed the authorities and the state has announced that it will borrow more than $1.4bn for reconstruction work. The government has moved its focus to cleaning and preparing hospitals for possible outbreaks of infections possibly air-borne or water-borne diseases as people have begun to return home from relief camps.

The rate of spread of rat fever has already raised the concerns of the government. Doctors have said the disease can be fatal if not arrested in initial stages. Medical department had already circulated the antibiotic Doxycycline across the state in relief camps in anticipation. But the lapses on part of the public to take the suitable medication in time has led to current crisis. Doctors and nurses have been deployed at various flood-affected areas across the state.


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