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Health ministry increases surveillance against leptospirosis and other illnesses

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Contact: Min. of Health


Monday 7 February 2011   The Ministry of Health has increased surveillance for infectious disease and has up-scaled vector control activities given the recent trends post Hurricane Tomas.


As was done in a previous press release dated January 25, 2011, the Ministry of Health reminds all that we are still at risk for diseases such as dengue fever (transmitted by mosquitoes), Leptospirosis (transmitted by rats and other infected mammals) flu related illnesses, and gastrointestinal illnesses, especially given the intermittent rains throughout what is normally our dry season.


We have identified an increase in the pattern of these illnesses in the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas. Many of these infectious illnesses manifest with very similar symptoms of fever, headache, joint pain, muscle aches, respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms. 


Medical personnel are also aware that though rare, persons may contract more than one infectious disease at the same time.


Leptospirosis is most common in tropical and subtropical areas with high rainfall. The disease is found mainly wherever humans come into contact with the urine of infected animals. This contact may be through a break in the skin as occurs when bathing or swimming in infected bodies of water or by ingestion of food and liquids contaminated with animal urine. Rats are likely the main vectors for Leptospirosis in our setting. However, there is some evidence to show that the disease may also be spread by small mammals and domestic animals.


Leptospirosis may present with a wide variety of clinical manifestations. Infected persons may present mild flu like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache and body pain. More severe cases develop jaundice which can manifest as yellowing of the eyes and skin and darkening of the urine (which may appear abnormally orange or brown or red). Complications include renal failure/Kidney Failure, meningitis and respiratory failure. 


Laboratory tests are available for the diagnosis of Leptospirosis and antibiotic treatment is available at all health-care facilities.


The Ministry advises the public to keep their surroundings clean to reduce the proliferation of rats thereby decreasing the spread of this disease.


Preventative Measures include:

- reduction of the rat population by removing garbage and keeping the home and community environment clean: also apply rodenticides and other measures that destroy rats and mice.

-avoiding contact with materials contaminated by the urine of rats or other animals

-ensuring food is prepared under sanitary conditions

-keeping water storage containers covered at all times and away from animals

-ensuring that water is boiled before drinking

-treating water collected from roof tops and gutterings before use for activities such as drinking and bathing.

-regular disinfection of floors and surface counters.

-immunization of dogs and livestock.

-separation of animal reservoirs from human habitation.

-persons who work with livestock should wear protective clothing such as boots and gloves and cover any wounds present.


Leptospirosis is a preventable and treatable disease.


For further information please call the Ministry of Health at, 4685318, 4685323, 4685309, 4685317


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