Monsoon healthcare: With leptospirosis cases on the rise, here’s everything to know about the disease

Monsoon healthcare: With leptospirosis cases on the rise, here’s everything to know about the disease

A seasonal spike in leptospirosis cases during monsoon in India is seen because people come in contact with contaminated, stagnant water. Find out what experts say about staying safe, especially if you are a pet parent

It was recently reported that amid the ongoing monsoon season, heavy rains and waterlogging situations in the city of Mumbai led to a surge in leptospirosis cases. The health department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) even issued an advisory regarding safety measures to follow. Residents have been asked to keep a check on diseases like dengue and leptospirosis, with more water stagnation expected in the coming days.

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What is leptospirosis?

For the unversed, leptospirosis is caused by a type of bacteria called ‘leptospira’; it is a zoonotic disease, which can infect both humans and animals like rats, mice, dogs, cows etc. According to Dr Sweta Shah, lead consultant — microbiology and infection prevention — at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, the bacteria is usually present in contaminated water and soil, where animals have passed urine.

“When a person walks through this water or [on this] soil, the bacteria can enter the body through open wounds — which may be invisible — or mucous membranes like the eyes or mouth. Further, it enters the bloodstream and spreads in the body. While it is usually a mild infection, it can also turn into a serious disease,” the doctor tells, adding that it can rarely lead to death, too.

The monsoon connection

Is leptospirosis more common in the monsoon season? Yes, says Dr Shah. “There is a seasonal spike in leptospirosis cases during monsoon in India, as a large number of people come in contact with contaminated, stagnant water, especially during and after flooding. It is also described as a ‘monsoon-related illness’,” she says.

Agreeing with her, Dr Preeti Chhabria, director — internal medicine and general medicine — at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai explains that leptospirosis in Mumbai is predominantly seen in the monsoon season, more so after heavy rain spells along with flooding.

“Leptospira bacteria, which inhabit rodents and other animals, can infect humans when they come into contact with water that has been tainted with rodent or infected-animal urine. Whenever it rains or floods, wading through contaminated water offers the bug an access to the skin through various scrapes and sores. The sickness can incubate for up to 20 -24 days, with an average of 10 days,” Dr Chhabria says.

According to her, the illness can range in severity.

The symptoms

Dr Chhabria says the symptoms can be mild or moderate with a high grade fever, chills, body aches, and redness in the eyes.

Adding to this, Dr Sulaiman Ladhani, consulting chest physician, MD chest and tuberculosis at Masina Hospital, Mumbai tells this outlet that most of the time, leptospirosis causes mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms, but it can also lead to serious complications such as meningitis, kidney failure or respiratory problems.

He explains that there are two phases of leptospirosis. “First phase is like a mild flu-like sickness which accounts for 90 per cent of the cases, in which a person may feel better and recover. In the second phase, it is a form of jaundice and it is also known as ‘whale’s disease’. It can be severe and lead to complications. This type can last for several weeks, but is less common.”

According to him, common symptoms seen in leptospirosis are:

– Fever
– Coughing
– Headache
– Muscle pain, especially back and calves
– Rashes on the body
– Diarrhea
– Vomiting
-Stomach discomfort
– Red eyes


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