Health Ministry concerned about large number of leptospirosis cases in KL

Flashback: StarMetro's report on Dec 9

Titiwangsa and Kepong parliamentary constituencies have the highest number of leptospirosis cases reported so far this year.

There are 131 cases to-date in Titiwangsa and 87 in Kepong.

According to Health Ministry Disease Control Division director Dr Chong Chee Kheong, the total number of such cases reported in Kuala Lumpur from January to Nov 15 this year is 312. There were 410 cases in this federal territory over the entire 2013.

“We are concerned about the large number of leptospirosis cases, which can be due to various factors such as true increase in cases, better awareness among clinicians resulting in increased diagnosis and reporting, or availability of more diagnostic facilities.

“Other factors may include poor waste disposal or as a result of more exposure to ecotourism activities,” he said.

Leptospirosis, or rat urine disease, is spread to humans by animals. You can catch leptospirosis by touching soil or water contaminated with the urine of wild animals infected with the leptospira bacteria.

Dr Chong said more than 90% cases of leptospirosis were sporadic and occurred throughout the country.

While there were other animals known to be carriers of the leptospira bacteria, he said, mice and rats could be reservoirs of the disease, so rodent control was important.

“Some of the preventive measures that should be taken by the public include choosing clean food premises and refraining from visiting any of the dirty food premises, maintaining cleanliness at home, and ensuring food and recreational premises are free of rodents and other pests.

“Rubbish and food scraps must be discarded properly,” he said in an email interview.

The issue of rodents and the diseases they spread was in the news again recently when an eight-year-old girl died after she was believed to have contracted leptospirosis some two weeks after picnicking with her family at a waterfall in Kedah.

A news report in an Indonesian newspaper claiming Kuala Lumpur had seven million rats was also highlighted in Parliament.

Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor rubbished the report while Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) Health and Environment director Dr Hayati Abdullah had responded by saying the emphasis should not be on the population size, but on ways to control them.

Dr Chong stressed that cleanliness was a major component to reducing the rat population and, by extension, leptospirosis cases.

“We are working closely with the relevant authorities to reduce rat density in populated areas.

“Regular and proper garbage disposal, waste management as well as good drainage system are vital measures that should be undertaken by local councils. Cleanliness makes a difference,” he added.

Meanwhile, Jalan Alor Hawkers and Traders Association vice-president Raymond Khue blamed insufficient rubbish bins as a reason for the rodent problem in the area.

“The bins located at the back lanes are small and not adequate for the amount of garbage generated daily.

“Often rubbish is strewn around the bins as it spills over from bins that are too full.

“Although some shops have taken precautions such as engaging pest control services on weekly or monthly basis, it only drives the rodents to migrate elsewhere so the problem is not stamped out,” he said.

Khue said he hoped the proposed beautifying works by DBKL would help to tackle the issue.

“Scheduled to begin next year, it was proposed that these back lanes would be revamped to allow for better and cleaner waste disposal system,” he said.

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