Chief Public Health Inspector for Westmoreland, Steve Morris, says while leptospirosis is not at a crisis level, every effort should be made to ensure the disease is easily detected and speedily treated.
Mr. Morris, who was speaking at a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) ‘Think Tank’ at the agency’s Montego Bay Regional Office on February 20, said health officials continue to remind the public of the dangers of swimming or wading in water which has resulted from flooding, or eating foods that might have been contaminated with animal urine.
“We are also advising parents to look out for their children who we all know are prone to going into whatever water they see around them, all in the name of fun. Food, too, must be covered and protected from contamination, which again is dangerous for unsuspecting youngsters as well as adults. If you see any food item that looks suspect, throw it away as it could easily be contaminated,” he warned.
Mr. Morris said they have been seeing an increase in the notifications for leptospirosis across the parish. “It is always on our radar, so we are looking at how best we can reach persons to reduce these notifications. Currently, we are looking at education as one of the better means of reaching persons, in addition to implementing a rodent-control programme in the township of Savanna-la-Mar,” he noted.
He emphasised that the rodent control programme has to be a collaborative effort between commercial entities, stakeholders, the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation and other agencies, adding that “the health department cannot, by itself, financially sustain such a programme”.
Mr. Morris said leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that could lead to possible fatal infection of the kidney, liver, brain, lung or heart.
He said while it cannot be spread from human to human, it can be contracted through exposure to the urine or body fluid of infected animals.
Meanwhile, Veterinary Public Health Inspector, Jodi-Ann Harris, said that leptospirosis can be fatal if it is incorrectly diagnosed or not detected and treated “very quickly”.
Ms. Harris stressed that a big part of the problem is that the symptoms of leptospirosis are similar to other illnesses, notably the flu, and which can oftentimes go untreated.
She is appealing to Jamaicans to visit the nearest hospital or health centre and get tested if they experience any such symptoms.
“If you are experiencing high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and rash, go and see the doctor right away,” she implored.
“Parents are also being advised that if any of these symptoms do occur, medical attention should be sought right away. The disease should be treated with antibiotics as soon as it is detected,” Ms. Harris said.
She pointed out that failure to expeditiously treat leptospirosis can result in kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure and respiratory distress. “It can also be fatal,” she added