-Chief Medical Officer says
Leptospirosis is a potentially serious bacterial illness that can affect many parts of the body. Infected wild and domestic animals pass leptospirosis-causing bacteria in their urine and people contract the disease by contact with water, wet soil, or vegetation that has been contaminated by the urine of infected animals.
It is treatable with antibiotics and contamination can be prevented by minimizing contact with water and mud that might be contaminated with the urine of infected animals. However, if the disease is untreated patients could develop kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, and respiratory distress.
Symptoms include fever, headache, chills, nausea and vomiting, eye inflammation, and muscle aches. In more severe cases, the illness can result in liver damage and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), kidney failure, and internal bleeding. These symptoms are usually displayed ten days after infection.
Leptospirosis has claimed two lives for the year and there are currently 12 confirmed cases of the bacterial disease, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Shamdeo Persaud said yesterday.
“I cannot give a number for suspected cases of leptospirosis since everyone who displays the relevant symptoms are possible suspects,” the CMO told Stabroek News, during a telephone interview.
However, he stated that based on data which have been tabulated by the Ministry of Health, there have been two deaths and twelve confirmed cases so far.
The Health Ministry has been collecting data on the disease since 2005, when the Great Flood resulted in several fatal infections. Last year, there were 81 leptospirosis cases, the majority of which were adult males. The cases detected this year seem to be following “the same trend”, Persaud stated, since 75% of them are males.
Based on previous data collected, the CMO said, children are least likely to become infected by the disease. Data collected from 2008 found that six minors from age 5 to 14 suffered from leptospirosis.
However, the number of leptospirosis cases recorded for this year may appear to be following the 2006 trend when compared to figures recorded during that year. Yesterday concluded the second week in this year with 12 confirmed cases of the disease recorded. In 2006, during the month of January the Health Ministry had recorded 20 cases; that year there were 77 Leptospirosis cases.
There are two peak periods annually when the disease surfaces, Persaud explained- the December/January and May/June rainy seasons.
Persaud yesterday called on members of the public to “cooperate” with the Ministry of Health in its drive to educate citizens more about the disease and measures that can be taken to prevent infection.
The CMO explained that the television advertisements were the key tools used to educate Guyanese about the possible risks of leptospirosis. Health teams, he said, have also been visiting various areas and have been conducting “one-on-one sessions” with members of these communities to ensure that they are fully aware of Leptospirosis.
In addition to this, door to door visits have been made by health officials in areas such as Cummings Lodge where a leptospirosis case was detected. Industry, East Coast Demerara and Meten-Meer-Zorg, West Coast Demerara are other areas, according to Persaud, where it has been detected.
Cases of leptospirosis have been surfacing from various locations and they’ve been coming from all the counties as well, the CMO stressed. Further, he informed that the relatives and immediate neighbours of those who are suffering from Leptospirosis have been observed and given relevant preventative treatment.
The prophylactic doxycycline will be administered in selected areas, inclusive of those where current cases surfaced, shortly.
There has been no mass administration of the prophylactic, the CMO said, because the criterion which determines whether this is done has not been satisfied. If the current number of cases for a certain period, Persaud said, gets too close to or exceeds the midpoint of the usual highest and lowest numbers then immediate mass administration of prophylactics will be done.
Some of the leptospirosis cases, Minister of Health Leslie Ramsammy had stated at a press briefing, came from areas which were not affected by floodwaters. Ramsammy had contended that the cases could be seen as an occupational hazard as a number of the infected persons are farmers, who also work close to animals.
However, Ralph Stewart the 50-year-old security guard who is suspected to have died of leptospirosis Monday night would have had direct exposure to floodwaters at Sophia and his Hadfield Street yard during December.
Stewart, of 5 Hadfield Street, Lodge, died at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) while awaiting medical attention. The man’s reputed wife, Kim Gooding, told this newspaper yesterday that doctors at GPHC had told relatives that he was positive for leptospirosis.
“Before we take he to the hospital Monday night we had to take he there before then and they tell us that he was suffering from lepto but they didn’t admit he,” Gooding explained.
According to the woman, Stewart had been stationed at the Sophia Exhibition Centre. Gooding, who is also stationed at the same location, explained that heavy rainfall last month caused the compound to become flooded. In addition to this, their Hadfield Street yard was also flooded during the same period.
“I got a long boots but he didn’t have one so he would normally have to walk through the water just like that,” Gooding explained.
Relatives had earlier told Stabroek News that the man’s yard had been inundated for the past few weeks and a dog had recently died in the water. Gooding said that rats were not rampant in the area.
Further, the woman reported that she and her teenage daughter had not yet been visited by any health officials.
“No one has come to see us…we don’t know anything about what we can get to stop from getting lepto…I don’t know how he (Stewart) might ah catch it but me and my daughter are feeling well so I guess we will be alright,” a grief stricken Gooding said.
This newspaper also visited the home of George Mc Donald who is suspected to be suffering from leptospirosis. Shelly Mohammed, the man’s reputed wife, told Stabroek News yesterday afternoon that the man was still a patient at GPHC.
While she reported that Mc Donald has been displaying several symptoms associated with the bacterial disease she is not sure if he is actually suffering from it.
“I haven’t been told anything definite about this whole thing…they treating him but I don’t know for what but he looking lil better,” Mohammed stated.