Tuesday, September 12, 2006

'Rat's disease' in Thailand's North

I've never heard of leptospirosis or of 'rat's disease'. It does not sound at all pleasant.

There are quite a few mysterious ailments that seem to be connected with tropical areas. Apparently a person can have this particular disease and not show any symptoms... my question in that case is, 'Is it still causing liver and spleen damage?'

'Rat's disease' takes 31 lives in the North (Bangkok Post : General news)
Leptospirosis, also known as "rat's disease," has killed 31 and infected thousands of villagers in flood-hit areas of the North, a senior health official said yesterday.

Disease Control Department chief Thawat Sundarajarn said the disease is spreading in flooded areas of Nan Province, and over 1,400 cases have already been reported in Muang, Pua, Ta Wang Pa and Wiang Sa districts.

"The leptospirosis outbreak is more severe this year due to the long inundation period and a high fatality rate in the North," he said.

The disease is an infection caused by rat urine which contaminates water and wet river banks. The bacteria in the urine does not survive for long in dry conditions and the disease is mostly found in tropical areas such as Thailand, India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and countries in Latin America.

The epidemic is usually at its peak during the rainy season between August and September and can occur in areas struck by natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes. Humans can contract the disease by either coming into contact with an infected rat or its urine. Dogs, cats, cows and buffaloes can also be carriers of the disease, Dr Thawat said.

Symptoms of the flu-like disease are high fever, muscle pain and red eyes, which eventually leads to liver and spleen failure if left untreated.

Around 350,000-500,000 leptospirosis cases are recorded around the world each year.

In Thailand, where at least 2,000 people get infected each year, most cases are reported in the northeastern and northern provinces. So far, there were more than 13,000 suspected cases in Nan province alone this year, said Dr Thawat.

The country's most severe outbreak of leptospirosis occurred back in 1999 with 14,285 infections and 362 fatalities.

As a precaution, Dr Thawat said people in flooded areas should avoid walking barefoot on damp and wet ground. "You should immediately see a doctor if your foot gets infected in the floods for urgent diagnosis and treatment," he said.

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