Monsoon has arrived, spreading infectious diseases like dengue and Japanese encephalits. But, this time, the people of the state have to be a little more cautious since there is likelihood of mystery fevers gripping the state, say experts.
Both rural and urban areas are prone to these fevers as can be deduced from the rising number of such cases in the recent past. With the symptoms of these fevers being similar to infectious diseases such as dengue and Japanese encephalitis, and the doctors are facing a major challenge to zero in on a correct diagnosis. Unfortunately, in some cases these fevers also lead to multiple organ failure.
Last month, several cases were reported in Chittoor district and other parts of Rayalaseema region. On the advice of the professors of virology of Sri Venkateswara University, tests were conducted on patients for Scrub Typhus (Mite Borne) infection and Leptospirosis. Around 80 cases of Scrub Typhus and 120 cases of Leptophyllous were suspected in the district when tests were carried out in Tirupati.
In the same month, there were reports of increasing number of cases of Scrub Typhus in Tamil Nadu and even deaths were reported in Chennai due to that viral infection. In September last year, there were reports of Scrub Typhus cases in Hyderabad also.
According to SV University virology professor DVR Sai Gopal, both Scrub Typhus and Leptospirosis are infectious diseases. He has launched an awareness campaign recently through pamphlets, radio programmes explaining about these both diseases in Tirupati and other parts of Chittoor district.
Scrub Typhus is an infectious disease caused by Rickettsia Bacteria known as Orientia tsutusgamushi.
‘’A person can get scrub typhus if he is bitten by chigger (mite) that is infected with the bacteria. On being bitten by the mite, the bacteria are transmitted from the host to the victim,’’ he explained.
The disease manifests 1-3 weeks after the bite of an infected chigger. Initial symptoms include moderate fever, severe headache, shaking chills, cough, conjunctivitis, gastrointestinal symptoms, abdominal pain and nausea.
An eschar is formed like a cigarette burn on the part of the skin bitten by the mite. During the second and third week, if untreated, additional symptoms can include splenomegaly (enlargement of spleen), pneumonitis (lung infection), myocarditis (inflammation of heart muscled), encephalitis (infection of brain), meningitis (infection of the covering of brain), increased pulse rate, loss of consciousness and delirium.
The diagnosis of scrub typhus is based on the patient’s exposure history, the clinical features and the results of serological tests like Weil-Felix text, ELISA, western blot, immunoperoxidase, immunofluorescene and PCR.
‘’Early detection and necessary treatment can cure the patient by killing the bacteria. However it will take time become completely healthy again as the damaged tissue need to recover,’’ Sai Gopal said.
The mites can be present anywhere, even in the air conditioned rooms, as the moisture levels in those rooms are high where mites can thrive. They could be present in the carpets and among lawns outside.
‘’Since there is no vaccine to protect against scrub typhus, it is advisable for the people to adhere to hygiene. Avoid walking bare foot, do not sit or lie on bare ground or grass, ensure the environs are clean and free of rubbish and dust,’’ he said.
Leptospirosis is another mystery fever caused by Leptospira, which is spread through urine of rodents. It is prevalent in rodent and rat infested areas and can spread through contaminated food or water. Even pets, farm animals can spread the disease, however person to person transmission is rare. He advises people to have their pets examined, avoid contact with animal urine or body fluids, not to swim, walk or consume water that may contain animal urine.