The Ministry of Health is alerting members of the public about a spike in leptospirosis cases, detected last month.
Senior Medical Officer of Health – North, Dr. Karen Springer, said five persons — two females and three males — contracted the severe bacterial infection in July, bringing the number of cases this year to 18. This included six hospitalisations but no deaths. During the period January to July 2011, 11 cases were confirmed.
Springer explained that the disease, which includes flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, chills, nausea and vomiting, eye inflammation and muscle aches, could be contracted through contact with water, damp soil or vegetation contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Bacteria can also enter the body through broken skin and if the person swallows contaminated food or water.
The health practitioner cautioned that while rodents were the main carriers of leptospirosis in Barbados, the disease could also be transmitted by other animals which carry the leptospirosis organism, including pigs, horses, cattle and dogs.
Protective clothing, such as waterproof gloves and boots, should therefore be worn at all times when participating in outdoor work or recreational activities, such as gardening and construction, since these might cause unintentional exposure to contaminated water.
Last year there were 44 cases of leptospirosis, resulting in three deaths.