More than 100 people, mostly agricultural labourers, have died in south Gujarat over the past two months due to a bacterial disease whose source is animal urine.
The urine often becomes mixed with water in farmland, exposing people working in the fields to the disease.
So far, 545 cases of leptospiral infection have been reported from the region, where on average close to 100 people died of the disease every year over the past four
to five years.
"Twelve deaths were reported on Tuesday, the highest in a day this monsoon. In the past 48 hours, 21 deaths occurred," said Bharat Patel, a doctor at the Surat civil hospital.
Most of the deaths have been reported from Surat district (42), followed by Tapi (31), he added.
At present, more than 150 patients are under treatment in various hospitals. This has stoked fears that the death toll will go up.
Besides rural areas in Surat and Tapi, the epidemic has spread to the interior of Navsari and Valsad districts.
"Waterlogging in the fields, caused by continuous rain, has exacerbated the situation in the interior areas. The farm labourers have thus been infected," said a medical officer from Surat district.
The officer said the mortality rate is 20-30% of those who contract the disease.
"One reason for the high death ratio is delay in receiving treatment. The disease is prevalent in areas where health facilities are not available very easily, and more than 90% of the victims are labourers, who don’t have the means to get timely treatment," he said.
The leptospirosis bacteria, spread through the urine of rats and cattle, enter the human body through wounds, eyes or the mouth.