Leptospirosis, a deadly disease whose spread is aided by poor garbage management, is on the rise in Karnataka. Deaths resulting from the disease have increased by five times in 2013.
In all, 1,293 cases of leptospirosis were reported across the state in 2013, with the disease claiming 40 lives. In 2012, only eight people died of it. The incidence is 2.8 times that in the previous year, when 462 cases were registered by Health authorities. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease transmitted from animals to humans through contaminated soil and water. It spreads when contaminated water or food is consumed, or if open wounds come in contact with infected soil and water. It is caused the bacterium Leptospira and spreads through vermin such as rats and raccoons.
Karnataka is one of only five states in the country where leptospirosis is endemic, according to statistics made available by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The highest incidence this year was recorded in Tamil Nadu, with 2,272 cases. Karnataka is a close second, followed by Kerala with 740 cases.
BBMP continues to have a tough time handling garbage in the city. Usha Gowda, an RT Nagar resident, said the garbage problem in her area has led to a huge population of rats, which routinely raid homes.
“Garbage around the street is never cleared, and if our doors are open just for a minute, rats enter,” she said.
“Contamination and infection are no surprise then,” she added.
When a person contracts Leptospirosis, the initial symptoms are fever and chills and in the second phase, it results in inflammation of nerves and affects other organs in the body.
In 2012, the outbreak occurred despite efforts from the Health Ministry’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Project to detect and respond to epidemic outbreaks.
Districts and states were provided with additional manpower, training given to Rapid Response Teams and laboratories strengthened to detect the disease.
Rodent control was also one of the strategies along with early diagnosis of infected patients and preventive treatment.
Dr Vijayashree, faculty member at the Institute of Public Health, said the increase in rat population is linked to the spurt in the number of Leptospirosis cases.
Rats multiply rapidly living in garbage as it provides them with food, and a temperature conducive to reproduction.
“Rat excreta and urine also tend to increase around these areas, and in shops and closed spaces where food or canned drinks are stored. When these substances get contaminated with rat excreta, they cause Leptospirosis,” she said.
The incidence of the disease is also high in regions where huge quantities of food grains are stored in silos and godowns.
Back in 2010, Karnataka recorded only 148 cases of the disease and it has risen almost ten-fold in just three years.
Dr Giridhara R Babu, epidemiologist at Public Health Foundation of India, said this could be because of better investigation and reporting of cases.
The State government, with partial funding from the centre, has launched Leptospirosis detection facilities in Shimoga and Dakshina Kannada, which could have led to the higher number of cases reported, said Health Department officials.