PETALING JAYA: The spotlight is once again on leptospirosis after it was revealed that the young tahfiz student from Johor, whose assault case made headlines, had died of the rat urine disease.
Leptospirosis remains a concern in Malaysia, as the number of cases had steadily increased from 2011 to 2015 although it dropped last year.
The Health Ministry’s statistics show that in 2011, there were 2,268 cases and it had continuously increased to 8,291 cases in 2015.
The cases dropped to 5,284 last year, but efforts must continue to bring the numbers down further.
The statistics also revealed that in 2011, 55 people died of the disease.
There were 78 deaths in 2015 and it dropped to 52 last year.
Sungai Buloh Hospital infectious disease head Datuk Dr Christopher Lee said leptospirosis was endemic in countries that have rodents and the only way to fight it is to take care of general cleanliness.
Rats are linked to environmental cleanliness.
If our surroundings are clean and we have no contact with rodents, our rate of leptospirosis drops drastically,” he said.
Dr Lee said that people should ensure that their factories, homes, offices, restaurants are clean as it is a public duty.
“Don’t throw food on the floor. It is bad attitude to think that there are people paid to clean up public areas. How many people can clean up every hour?
“If my mother cleans the room, it does not mean that one can throw things on the floor,” he said.
Dr Lee said that if people do their part, enforcement officers and cleaners do not have to go in every hour but perhaps once or twice a week only.
“Like dengue, how often do you want enforcement officers to check? That attitude has to change.”
Asked if rainwater could wash away rat urine at picnic areas, he said pool edges have stagnant water which may be contaminated.
He also said that they could also reduce exposure to the bacteria by wearing proper shoes or boots and clothing when they go into forests for eco-adventure activities such as trekking and picnics.
He said the protective gear would keep the body from getting cuts and abrasions that allow bacteria to enter the body.
Dr Lee also advised parents to stop children from playing in flood waters as flood water is not clean and could bring also bring diseases like cholera and typhoid.
Although there were no documented cases of leptospirosis being spread by drinking from can drinks or bottles, he said it was good practice to clean the can or bottle or pour the drink out into a glass.
Most people infected with leptospirosis have mild symptoms such as fever, body aches and back aches but there are leptospirosis variants that could lead to kidney and liver failure.