Reunion reports leptospirosis peak

news desk @bactiman63

Since the beginning of the year, 99 cases of leptospirosis have been declared, including 43 in March and 35 cases in April, according to the Regional Health Agency (ARS) of Reunion.

Image/Robert Herriman

Among the 99 cases, 18 people were admitted to intensive care and one person died of the disease.

In 2021, 74 cases of leptospirosis were declared during the same period, requiring hospitalization for the majority of them. In previous years, more than fifty cases were recorded each year.

The rainy season is the period most at risk because it presents favorable temperature and rainfall conditions for the survival in the environment of the bacteria responsible for this disease. Episodes of heavy rain promote soil leaching and environmental contamination and are therefore periods of particular risk.

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Leptospirosis is a serious disease, caused by a bacterium often present in rats or other rodents. The disease is contracted on contact with a humid environment contaminated by the urine of these infected animals (mud, puddles, stagnant water at the edge of gullies).

The bacterium enters the body through the skin in the event of cuts or wounds (even small ones). After 4 to 14 days of incubation, leptospirosis manifests itself with the following symptoms (which can easily be confused with dengue fever or a Covid-19 infection):

  • sudden high fever (often > 38.5°C),
  • muscle and joint pain,
  • abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting,
  • headache.

The disease may get worse after a few days. If not treated in time with antibiotics, it can be fatal.

The vast majority of cases recorded on the island are linked to the practice of the activity:

  • gardening,
  • freshwater recreation (fishing, river or pool swimming, whitewater sports)

Most people have unprotected wounds or lack sufficient protection (boots, gloves, goggles, coveralls, etc.).

Simple measures make it possible to effectively limit the risks of contamination:

  • Apply individual protection measures:
    • use appropriate equipment (gloves, boots, coveralls, etc.)
    • protect and disinfect wounds
    • postpone freshwater recreational activities in case of cloudy water
    • do not walk barefoot or in slippers in standing or muddy water
  • Rat control:
    • maintain your land regularly (no bulky objects or waste conducive to the proliferation of rats, etc.)
    • eliminate all food sources (including animal food scraps)
  • Respect the bathing bans in places marked at risk.

These preventive measures should be applied especially after periods of heavy rain because the risk of contact with contaminated wetlands is then greater.