While the world is focused on one deadly disease, people tend to become ignorant of the fact that there are many other diseases out there that can put lives in danger. Therefore, people can easily become vulnerable to such diseases. Being ignorant may be easy. However, it can result in dire consequences.
In order to avoid such consequences, the Health Capsule spoke to Dr. Waruna Gunathilake, Consultant and Diabetologist of the National Hospital, to help spread awareness on ‘Leptospirosis,’ a bacterial disease that has a very high risk of spreading during the rainy season. Having already caused nine deaths in the last four months of this year, the disease has become a burden to the country.
CAUSES AND EFFECTS
Dr Gunathilake explained that leptospirosis is caused by pathogenic spirochetes of the genus Leptospira. These micro-organisms are found residing inside animals of the rodent family, commonly rats. They are usually released to the environment through rat urine. Dr Gunathilake stated that the disease is likely to originate near paddy fields, domestic settings and garbage dumps, where rodents are quite prevalent.
According to Dr Gunathilake, spirochetes are unable to invade the human body unless it is lacerated or if the skin is in a condition that can be easily penetrated. The organisms can also enter the body through mucous membranes (Eyes, nose and mouth). Dr Gunathilake explained that people can get infected due to bathing in contaminated water such as pool water and tanks.
If infected with leptospira, the micro-organisms can spread in the blood of the patient and enter circulation, thus spreading into all organs in the body. Dr Gunathilake stated that the spread of the disease within the body can cause damages to most of the organs, especially the kidneys. While it can affect most organs including the heart, lungs, liver and brain, the main concern is the kidney as leptospira can cause renal failure. Dr Gunathilake mentioned that most patients die due to acute renal failure caused by severe damage to the kidneys. Other conditions such as myocarditis and pulmonary haemorrhage may also occur.
According to Dr Gunathilake, symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, severe body ache, yellow eyes (caused due to liver failure) and reduced urine output. He further stated that there can be a slight reduction in the number of platelets and increase in neutrophils as well.
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
Dr Gunathilake explained that it is best to take all preventive measures to avoid falling victim to the dreadful disease. He advised farmers to take antibiotics before going into paddy fields. It is also important to control the population of rodents inhabiting the paddy fields, domestic settings and other places where they are likely to be dwelling. It is best to block rat holes as well.
He further advised people to avoid contaminated waters, especially if they have wounds or other skin conditions. He also said that it is best to wear gloves and boots to avoid contact with the harmful micro-organism.
Dr Gunathilake mentioned that leptospira cannot survive in flowing water. Therefore, pooling of water should be controlled, especially during the rainy season as flooding occurs quite frequently. He said that the north central region; Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are mostly of concern as many tanks are located in that area. Therefore, it is best to avoid bathing in water pools and tanks.
Treatment for leptospirosis is mainly received through antibiotics such as penicillin to kill the micro-organisms. If the patients are suffering from liver or kidney failure, supportive care is required until they are fully recovered.