Chief Public Health Inspector for Westmoreland, Steve Morris, is advising residents who come into close contact with animals as part of their job, to take extra precaution against leptospirosis.
In an interview with JIS News, Mr. Morris noted that the disease is regarded as an occupational health disease, meaning that persons who work with animals, such as farmers, cane cutters, trainers and others, are more vulnerable.
“Do not wade in water where you are not sure of the source, and make sure you wear your waterboots. Ensure you wear protective clothing around animals, so you do not come into contact with the urine. Cover any exposed areas, and if you have cuts, keep them covered and protected,” Mr. Morris advised.
He said that persons must move away from the misconception that rodents are the only carriers of leptospirosis.
“A lot of people blame [the disease] on rodents only, when there are so many other animals that can also transmit leptospirosis such as cats, dogs, sheep, goats and so on. It is not one of those ‘class one’ diseases, but it is still an issue because the symptoms resemble that of dengue fever, so it is a challenge,” he said.
He noted, further, that the disease is not spread from the bite of the animal but from contact with its urine.
Citizens are encouraged to protect themselves in the home by covering their food or putting it in a safe area out of the reach of rodents and other animals. Householders who store water in containers are advised to boil or disinfect with bleach before use.
Mr. Morris told JIS News that since the start of the year, Westmoreland has had 26 notifications of the disease.
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that could lead to possible fatal infection of the kidney, liver, brain, lung or heart.
Symptoms of the disease include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, abdominal pain, diarrhea and rash. The disease, if caught quickly, can be cured using antibiotics.
Failure to expeditiously treat leptospirosis can result in kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure and respiratory distress.