The Ministry of Health in Dominica wishes to inform the general public that the outbreak of Leptospirosis announced by the Ministry last year has not yet subsided. While most of the cases have recovered completely there were two confirmed deaths from Leptospirosis. This is of much concern to the Ministry.
Although a variety of mammals worldwide harbor the infection, in Dominica the most common carriers of Leptospirosis are rats, dogs and livestock. Humans do not transmit the infection to others.
Humans become infected through contact with water, food or soil containing urine from infected animals.
A person suffering from Leptospirosis usually present with fever chills, eye redness, headache and muscle ache.
Severe cases of the illness can result in liver damage and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes), kidney failure, damage to the lungs, bleeding in the brain and death.
The non severe form of the disease can be easily confused with other diseases such as the common flu, and dengue fever. A laboratory test is needed to confirm a suspected case.
The Ministry of Health urges clinicians to consider the diagnosis of Leptospirosis in patients who complain of flu-like symptoms and have been exposed to the urine of rats or other animals.
People traditionally at highest risk for Leptospirosis have been those engaged in certain occupations such as farmers, veterinarians, sanitation and sewer workers. Persons involved in food preparation may be exposed to rat-contaminated surroundings when hygienic measures are unsatisfactory. Campers and hikers exposed to rat contaminated water and soil are also at risk for developing the disease.
The Rodent Reduction Program in Dominica is ongoing. Environmental Health Officials have commenced the Rodent Reduction Program in some Health Districts and the program will be extended to the other health districts in the near future.
The Ministry of Health is continuing the implementation of an action plan developed to respond effectively to the situation and advises the public to take the following measures.
• Avoid contact with surfaces and water sources that may be contaminated with rat urine
• Keep your home and its surroundings clean and free of garbage
• Avoid leaving food where rats or rodents could get to it. Keep food in covered containers
• Prevent access to rats by erecting rodent-proof fences and screens and ensure possible household entry places are blocked off
• Farmers should ensure that animal feeds are stored in rat-proof containers
• Wear protective clothing, shoes and gloves to avoid coming into contact with contaminated surfaces, water source or food.
• Seek medical attention if you suspect you have any symptoms of Leptospirosis.
The Ministry of Health continues to urge the general public to be very vigilant in preventing the increase of Leptospirosis on the island.
Brochures on Leptospirosis are available at the Health Promotion Resource Centre.