Johor on high alert for leptospirosis cases at flood hit areas

JOHOR BARU: The state Health Department is closely monitoring the situation in flood-hit districts in Johor to ensure there are no leptospirosis (rat urine disease) cases.

Johor Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the authorities would be on alert after three people in Tanah Merah, Kelantan contracted the disease from floodwaters there.

“Although there are no reported cases of leptospirosis in the post-flood period in Johor, we are not taking any chances,’’ he said when contacted on Monday.

Ayub said normally, it would take five days to a week for a person to develop the signs or symptoms of leptospirosis depending on their immune system and that the cases varied from one person to another.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals.

It is caused by bacteria of the genus leptospira and in humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases.

Among the symptoms are intense headache, fever, muscle ache, especially in the calf muscles and lumbar region, pain in the joints, red eyes, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

Some people who are infected with the disease may have no symptoms at all.

He said the last case of leptospirosis in Johor was in Segamat district in 2015, and that the victim who succumbed to infection died five days after the victim was admitted to hospital.

“A single gulp of water from a river, pond, waterfall or flood waters can expose people to the disease and parents should closely monitor them and prevent them from playing in floodwaters.

“My advice to those affected is to seek treatment at the nearest clinic or hospital and not to take these symptoms lightly,’’ said Ayub.

Floods in Johor started in the last week of December 2016, affecting eight districts – Segamat, Muar, Tangkak, Kota Tinggi, Kluang, Mersing, Batu Pahat and Johor Baru - with some 9,000 victims placed in 101 flood relief centres.

He said cleaning activities at the flood-hit districts ended on Feb 11, involving fogging at 3,613 shops and houses, larviciding to kill Aedes mosquito larvae at 795 premises and rat and flies at 3,550 premises.

News reports quoted Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam saying blood and urine samples taken from the three people in Tanah Merah confirmed they had leptospirosis and not severe pneumonia as suspected earlier.

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