Persons Living in Sugar-cane Areas More Susceptible to Leptospirosis

Photo: Garwin Davis photo Health, Promotion and Education Officer at the Westmoreland Health Department, Gerald Miller, addresses Jamaica Information Service (JIS) ‘Think Tank’, at the agency’s Montego Bay Regional Office, on February 20

Story Highlights

  • Health, Promotion and Education Officer at the Westmoreland Health Department, Gerald Miller, says persons living in sugar-cane areas will always be more susceptible to leptospirosis.
  • “We had some suspected cases in Westmoreland last year, which prompted us to have a stakeholders meeting in the parish. What we gleaned from the meeting is that the suspected cases were from the areas where sugar cane is concentrated,” he noted.
  • “In terms of rodent infestation, action is taken immediately to ensure the public is protected. Establishments that serve a lot of persons are monitored a lot more, seeing that they pose the most risks,” he said.

Health, Promotion and Education Officer at the Westmoreland Health Department, Gerald Miller, says persons living in sugar-cane areas will always be more susceptible to leptospirosis.

Mr. Miller, who was speaking at a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) ‘Think Tank’, at the agency’s Montego Bay Regional Office on February 20, added that while this should not be viewed as any cause for serious alarm, it is always a good thing for the public to be sufficiently informed.

“We had some suspected cases in Westmoreland last year, which prompted us to have a stakeholders meeting in the parish. What we gleaned from the meeting is that the suspected cases were from the areas where sugar cane is concentrated,” he noted.

Mr. Miller said they decided to use a multipronged approach, including a progressive public outreach programme, to inform persons about the disease.

“We have been doing our ongoing sessions with the cane farmers. There are eight groups of cane farmers in Westmoreland, and as you know, Westmoreland is a large sugar-cane-growing area,” he pointed out.

Mr. Miller said even though the sugar industry in the parish is not as busy as it used to be, “we still have areas where sugar cane is grown on a large scale”.

He added that the rats tend to flee to residential homes during the time of harvest, especially when fire is brought into play in the cane fields.

“We have to be constantly sharing with the community the dangers of rats and the leptospirosis bacteria. We are going to roll out a sensitization programme into these communities. We don’t want a disease that can be treated to be killing persons in the 21st century, so we need to give persons the information to protect themselves,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller added that while the number of cases of leptospirosis is still within endemic levels, there still needs to be protective measures in place to keep the rats at bay.

“It is not just the sugar-cane areas. Residents across the island should proactively be practising measures that will control the rat population,” he said.

For his part, Chief Public Health Inspector for Westmoreland, Steve Morris, said food safety is the number-one priority programme that the Ministry of Health has across the island, noting that “this is also very important” in the fight against leptospirosis.

“In terms of rodent infestation, action is taken immediately to ensure the public is protected. Establishments that serve a lot of persons are monitored a lot more, seeing that they pose the most risks,” he said.

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that could lead to possible fatal infection of the kidney, liver, brain, lung or heart. While it cannot be spread from human to human, it can be contracted through exposure to the urine or body fluids of infected animals.

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