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Saturday August 21, 2010

Number of leptospirosis cases on the rise in the last five years

PETALING JAYA: The number of leptospirosis infections, a rat-borne disease, has been steadily increasing over the last five years.

According to the Health Ministry, there were 263 deaths because of the disease in 2004 compared with 1,418 cases last year.

The ministry’s disease control division director Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said there was increased awareness and reporting of the cases.

“The incidence of leptospirosis is five per 100,000 population in 2009 compared with 136.89 per 100,000 population for dengue,” he said in an e-mail reply to queries from The Star.

Dr Lokman confirmed that the leptospirosis incident in Lubuk Yu near Maran, Pahang in June was an outbreak.

The Lubuk Yu recreational forest near Maran, Pahang, has been closed to the public since July after six people died within a week after being involved in a search operation for a drowned victim.

Of the 83 people involved in the rescue work, eight died after they were infected by leptospirosis and melioidosis bacteria.

Another man, a state Health Department personnel, died when he was infected with leptospirosis after swimming in Lata Bayu, Baling, Kedah, which has remained temporarily closed to picnickers.

Besides Lata Bayu, two other recreational spots – Puncak Jening in Kuala Nerang and Bukit Wang in Jitra – have also been temporarily closed to the public.

On Tuesday, the Perak health department had asked three national service training camps to stop their water activities after samples taken from pools nearby tested positive for the leptospirosis bacteria.

Symptoms of leptospirosis can range from flu-like illness that can progress to meningitis, kidney failure, jaundice, and the bleeding of the lungs.

Symptoms of melioidosis include acute lung infection and blood infection.