A 43-year-old woman from Kurar village in Malad died of leptospirosis on Friday, taking the toll to 15 in just 10 days.
With doctors saying the infection is easily curable if treated on time, state health minister Deepak Sawant has asked citizens to not self-medicate, and instead consult doctors at public hospitals if they show symptoms such as fever or body ache.
Seven Mumbaites died of the infection within 24 hours of hospitalization. This shows delay in treatment could have worsened their condition, leading to higher mortality, public health experts said.
“Symptoms of leptospirosis are very similar to any other viral illness. There were few cases of leptospirosis in the past few years, so it has not been the first suspicion,” said Dr Mini Khetarpal, chief of the civic epidemiology cell.
When HT visited patients recuperating at civic hospitals, it became clear how leptospirosis was not the first diagnosis. Most had visited multiple doctors before reaching the civic facility.
Take the case of 31-year-old Kandivli resident Rajesh Samant. He went to multiple doctors in his locality after he had high fever and headache. Samant’s malaria test was negative, and the medicines did not give him any relief.
“I must have taken some 50 tablets in the past week, but the fever refused to subside,” said Samant, who is recuperating at a municipal hospital in Kandivli. It was only on Thursday evening, after he complained of high fever that his friends took him to the municipal hospital.
Deaths concentrated in some areas
All the deaths, except two, were recorded in the suburbs between Malad and Dahisar (see box). Municipal health officials said it was difficult to explain why the deaths were concentrated in this area. “The only explanation one can think of is the unavailability of qualified doctors in some localities, which has led to delayed treatment. Ideally, if the patient is started on the antibiotic doxycylin, the disease is completely curable,” said a senior civic official. Also, the rat and dog population in these areas could be high –their urine and faecal matter carries the infection and is responsible for transmission.
Samant, too, blamed the locality in which he stays. “I live in a chawl that is infested with rats.”
The civic body also pointed to pre-existing illnesses. “A few had tuberculosis, some had a heart condition, others had a history of alcoholism. This can reduce immunity,” said Khetarpal.