Leptospirosis toll is increasing in the Surat region of the western Indian state of Gujarat.
Till Saturday, 38 such deaths were reported. Nearly 170 others are receiving treatment at New Civil Hospital (NCH) in Surat.
Though fatality rate from leptospirosis has been declining over a period of time, it is still causing a scare in this region.
According to doctors at the leptospirosis ward of NCH, patients referred here were in severe condition, reflecting careless approach of medical practitioners in rural areas in the region. "Despite of several awareness campaigns and distribution of preventive medicine, it is proving extremely difficult to educate people to contact doctors at early stage.
It has been observed that patients contact local doctors after one or two days of fever.
Treatment by local doctors takes couple of days after which the doctor realises that this is not a common fever. But by that time patient's lungs get infected severely," says a doctor at leptospirosis ward in NCH.
In majority cases, patients develop 25% more infection till they are brought to NCH Surat, says a medico. "Due to adoption of plasmapheresis treatment in leptospirosis we have successfully treated patients with up to 35 per cent pulmonary failure. But infection more than that cant be cured," says a senior doctor at NCH.
Plasmapheresis is a form of therapy to separate plasma from blood, remove pathogenic substances from plasma, and either replace it with substitution fluid or purify it.
All the patients who died recently at NCH due to leptospirosis had developed more than 50 per cent infection in lungs.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. Symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting, and may include jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or a rash. If the disease is not treated, the patient could develop kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, and respiratory distress. In rare cases death occurs.
Many of these symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases. Leptospirosis is confirmed by laboratory testing of a blood or urine sample.
Outbreaks of leptospirosis are usually caused by exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Many different kinds of animals carry the bacterium; they may become sick but sometimes have no symptoms. Leptospira organisms have been found in cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents, and wild animals. Humans become infected through contact with water, food, or soil containing urine from these infected animals. This may happen by swallowing contaminated food or water or through skin contact, especially with mucosal surfaces, such as the eyes or nose, or with broken skin. The disease is not known to be spread from person to person.
Leptospirosis occurs worldwide but is most common in temperate or tropical climates. It is an occupational hazard for many people who work outdoors or with animals, for example, farmers, sewer workers, veterinarians, fish workers, dairy farmers, or military personnel. It is a recreational hazard for campers or those who participate in outdoor sports in contaminated areas and has been associated with swimming, wading, and whitewater rafting in contaminated lakes and rivers. The incidence is also increasing among urban children.
Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics, such as doxycycline or penicillin, which should be given early in the course of the disease. Intravenous antibiotics may be required for persons with more severe symptoms.