Saturday 18 January, 2020

Health Ministry warns against Leptospirosis after flooding

The Health Ministry is advising citizens to keep their surroundings clean and to take measures to prevent the spread of Leptospirosis after last month's heavy flooding. 

In a statement issued Monday, the Ministry said citizens should take care to only drink purified water (either bottled or boiled), to wear protective clothing, and to keep their surroundings free of contamination.

"The Ministry of Health continues to urge members of the public to take the necessary steps to avoid the health risks associated with flooding. Flood waters may carry silt, raw sewage and bacteria that can contaminate food and water and make it unsafe."

The Ministry said the spread of diseases such as Leptospirosis is high in flooding situations however once diagnosed early, it can be treated. 

Leptospirosis is spread through the urine of infected animals (usually rodents, dogs, farm animals and horses).

Leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans through cuts and abrasions of the skin, or through the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth with water contaminated with the urine of infected animals.

As animals are constantly in the environment, there is a particular danger of getting leptospirosis when flooding occurs, such as following a typhoon or very heavy seasonal rains, because of exposure to contaminated water when wading in floodwaters.

Leptospirosis can occasionally also be transmitted through the drinking of water or ingestion of food contaminated with urine of infected animals, often rats.

Animals and humans can become infected by direct contact, by drinking or inhaling the infected urine, or water contaminated by urine.

The Ministry said signs of a leptospirosis infection include:

- High fever

- Headache

- Chills

- Muscle aches

- Vomiting

- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)

- Red eyes

- Abdominal pain

- Diarrhea

- Rash

The Ministry said many of these symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases, while some infected persons may have no symptoms at all.

The time between a person’s exposure to a contaminated source and becoming sick is two days to four weeks.

Illness usually begins abruptly with fever and other symptoms.

"If you believe that you may have Leptospirosis please visit your nearest health centre or your doctor immediately".

To reduce the risk of Leptospirosis, members of the public are advised to:

- Avoid contact with animal urine, especially if you have cuts or abrasions of the skin.

- Avoid contact with potentially contaminated water (e.g. streams, rivers and ponds).

- If working in areas that may be prone to contamination, wear protective clothing such as boots, aprons, eye protection, or face masks.

- Consume only clean drinking water

- Inspect food carefully to determine if it may have come into contact with flood water. Discard open containers, packages and foods contained in bags, paper, cloth, fiber or cardboard boxes e.g. flour, cereal, rice even if the packages were sealed.

- Throw away fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and meat that may have come into contact with flood waters.

- Canned food items may be safe for consumption but persons are advised to remove labels and disinfect cans thoroughly with a bleach solution before opening.

The Ministry said officials have been engaged in the following surveillance and health education activities in communities affected by flooding:

- Visits to food premises in affected areas to guarantee that contaminated foods, especially meat, are not offered for sale to the public and are disposed of in a manner that prevents its re-entry into the market.

- Monitoring food preparation and processing facilities to ensure that contaminated raw materials are not used in food preparation/processing.

- Liaising closely with farmers and market vendors to ensure that appropriate health protocols are followed, including the disposal of affected crops, where necessary. (Green, leafy vegetable crops are especially susceptible to adverse effects of flood waters)

- Monitoring and reporting on overflowing privies, such as septic tank systems and pit latrines, to relevant authorities so that they may address the situation urgently

- Monitoring and reporting on the existence of carcasses of large animals to relevant authorities so that they may address the situation urgently

- Post flooding management by the application of bactericidal spray to the hard surfaces around homes and necessary adulticiding (chemical treatment for adult mosquitoes) and larval treatment as it relates to mosquitoes.

Members of the public who need assistance in this regard should contact their County Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) office as indicated below.

- St. George East: 667-6688/667-4142

- St. George Central: 675-1983/675-5253

- St. George West: 625-4151/623-0724

- Caroni: 636-5066/636-8203

- St. Andrew/St. David: 668-5987/668-2055

- Nariva/Mayaro: 222-5005/5015/17/19/21 ext 3003

- St. Patrick: 649- 2056/1227

- Victoria: 652-2016 Ext. 3/653-0515

- Tobago: 660-7000 Ext.4280


For more information in leptospirosis see the World Health Organisation

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