The Health Promotion Bureau (HPB) Director and Epidemiologist Dr Paba Palihawadana has warned the public to take precautions to protect themselves from Rat Fever (Leptospirosis) due to the current rainy weather, when the virus tends to spread.
A total of 1,574 suspected cases of Leptospirosis have been reported to the Epidemiology Unit (EPU) up to June this year. A total of five districts including Gampaha, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Ratnapura and Moneragala, have reported over a hundred cases of Leptospirosis while Colombo and Kegalle have reported 92 and 97 cases respectively. So far in June 49 cases of Leptospirosis have been reported.
Rat fever is spread from urine in infected animals and rodents, especially rats. Those trampling it with feet that have wounds can get infected. It is usually fatal, but preventable with Doxycycline.
Health Promotion Bureau officials have warned that the onset of the monsoon rains could cause the figures to spike. According to Epidemiologists some of the increased reporting of Rat Fever was from districts which have traditionally had a low number of cases and non-endemic districts. They said all Regional Directors of Health Services, had been alerted on controlling and preventing the current Leptospirosis outbreak following floods and heavy rains as a priority health issue and to ensure that adequate stocks of Doxycycline are available for chemoprophylaxis to target groups (if necessary).
Officials said that patients should seek healthcare very early with initial symptoms, from a government hospital or a qualified medical practitioner to prevent deaths and complications.
Information on symptoms and the drug Doxycycline used to prevent it can be obtained by dialing the 24 hour hot line 0710107107 which is free and manned by specialists in the field.