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Leptospirosis: Prevention and Control [Monsoon Special]

  By posted Sep 16th 2011
Healthy Living

Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images

Every year, hundreds of people in India fall prey to the rare bacterial infection called Leptospirosis contracted by using contaminated water. The stagnant water of the rain mostly propels this bacterial disease through large number of animal carriers or vectors. Due to its increasing proportions and rising incidence in the country, Leptospirosis has emerged as a major public health problem. In fact, the condition is known to be endemic in India since the early part of the 20th century with the first comprehensive account obtained from the Andaman archipelago. Hence, a comprehensive understanding of the condition is a must to prevent and control its onset. Here’s how this dangerous zoonotic disease can affect our lives.

What is Leptospirosis? – A Brief Understanding

Leptospirosis, also called Weil’s disease, is a severe bacterial infection caused by the exposure to several types of the bacteria, Leptospira. A number of animals like rats, mice and moles act as major carriers, sometimes; infection is also known to spread from person to person through breast milk or from a mother to her unborn child.

Mode of Infection: It is mainly through cuts or abrasions in the skin that this bacterium can enter a living body. Apart from this, you can also contact the disease via drinking contaminated water, inhalation of urine droplets, through water-logged skin or through intact mucous membranes.

After entering the body, leptospires infect the various organs and tissues via the blood stream. But, eventually, the host’s immune system clears the bacteria from the body. Sometimes, they may even remain inside the kidneys and are shed in the urine after a few weeks or even months.

Clinical Manifestations: Overall, the disease’s clinical manifestations can be categorized into four basic subsections.

• A mild influenza-like illness
• Pulmonary hemorrhage associated with respiratory failure
• Meningitis
• Weil’s Syndrome characterized by renal failure, myocarditis, jaundice and hemorrhage.

Prevention and Control:

1. The ideal way of preventing Leptospirosis is by identifying the source and disrupting the transmission. The source of infection varies in different epidemiological settings and the risk factor should be identified accordingly.
2. Avoid exposure to stagnant water and high risk areas as much as possible. In case such exposures are unavoidable, take precautionary medicines like amoxicillin and doxycycline.
3. Control measures should also be implemented to reduce the local reservoir species of animals or through immunizations of dogs and livestock.
4. The area of habitation should also be kept clean by removing all possible source of contamination.
5. Human immunization also helps to provide a certain degree of protection against infection. However, the commercial vaccines available do not induce long term protection against the infection.
6. In all diagnosed cases, adequate treatment with effective antibiotics should be initiated as early as possible. Intravenous penicillin is the best way to cure a severe case of leptospirosis. However, less severe cases can be controlled by administering controlled levels of amoxicillin, ampicillin, doxycycline or erythromycin.
7. Aggressive medical care with proper electrolyte supplements is also required in extreme cases. If associated with renal failure, peritoneal or haemodialysis is a must.

So, this monsoon, take the proper preventive measures to protect yourself from contacting this hazardous infectious disease. Also, ensure that you contact your physician at the earliest in case of any obvious symptoms.

Source: MedlinePlus, World Health Organization report, Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Communicable Disease


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