Leptospirosis – A disease that peaks during the monsoon season

ByHindustan Times
Aug 22, 2023 04:30 PM IST

This article is authored by Vikram Vora, medical director, Indian sub-continent, International SOS.

As we transition from scorching summer to the relief of rain, it's common to become less vigilant about health risks. Ironically, the monsoon season poses some of the most significant threats to human health due to the proliferation of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Among these, leptospirosis stands out as a crucial infectious disease, often surging after heavy rainfall or flooding.


We're now on WhatsApp. Click to join.

Leptospirosis, a potentially fatal zoonotic bacterial infection, has gained prominence globally. Its prevalence is more pronounced in warm, humid regions, both urban and rural. Recent data estimates around 1.03 million annual cases, leading to approximately 60,000 fatalities. The burden of this disease is projected to rise, fueled by the growth of the urban poor population in tropical countries, coupled with inadequate hygienic infrastructure. In India, leptospirosis affects thousands annually.

Caused by the Leptospira bacteria genus, leptospirosis is transmitted through the urine of infected animals. Heavy rainfall and flooding provide an ideal environment for the proliferation of these bacteria, which remain viable in water for weeks. During the monsoon, flooding leads to stagnant water pools, creating a breeding ground for the bacteria.

The infection enters the human body through contact with contaminated floodwater, either through wounds, ingestion, or inhalation. Initial symptoms include high fever, headaches, and muscle pain. If left untreated, the disease can escalate, causing liver and kidney failure, meningitis, and potentially proving fatal.

The surge in leptospirosis cases during monsoon months can strain healthcare infrastructure in smaller cities and towns. Delays in diagnosis and treatment can lead to complications. Leptospirosis can result in long-term issues like kidney disease, impacting the affected individuals' quality of life and their families.

While early diagnosis enables treatment, prevention remains crucial to mitigate monsoon outbreaks. Pre-monsoon awareness campaigns should emphasise the dangers of leptospirosis. At International SOS, we prioritise incorporating this information into our seasonal health campaigns, ensuring widespread awareness among client workforces.

Some of the preventive measures are:

  • Avoid walking through flooded areas. If necessary, use high gumboots to keep your feet above water.
  • Use raincoats and gloves to shield against exposure to contaminated environments.
  • Thoroughly wash hands after outdoor activities involving soil or potentially contaminated water/objects.
  • Proper waste disposal prevents drainage blockages.
  • Seek medical attention for fevers lasting over 2 days; avoid self-medication.
  • Solutions for Leptospirosis:
  • Treatment involves antibiotics like doxycycline or penicillin, best administered early. Severe cases might require intravenous antibiotics. Anyone displaying leptospirosis symptoms should promptly contact a healthcare provider.

Organisations can take several proactive measures to protect their business travellers and employees from leptospirosis:

  1. Education and Awareness: Provide comprehensive information about leptospirosis, its transmission, and preventive measures to all employees, especially those who travel to high-risk areas.

2. Pre-Travel Health Guidance: Include leptospirosis awareness in pre-travel health advisories, ensuring travellers are well-informed about the disease's risks and precautions.

3. Hygiene Practises: Emphasise the importance of thorough hand hygiene, especially after outdoor activities involving soil, water, or potential contaminants.

4. Traveller Health Monitoring:Establish a system to monitor the health of travellers returning from high-risk areas. Promptly address any symptoms or concerns.

5. Vaccination Consideration: Depending on the risk level and destination, explore the feasibility of providing relevant vaccinations to employees traveling to leptospirosis-prone regions.

6. Medical Support: Ensure that employees have access to medical care and assistance, including information about local medical facilities, should they experience symptoms.

Some travel insurance-related measures are:

  1. Emergency Response Plan: Develop a clear emergency response plan that includes steps to take in case an employee develops symptoms of leptospirosis while traveling.

2. Post-Travel Health Assessment: Encourage employees to undergo post-travel health assessments, particularly if they have been to high-risk areas. This can help identify and address potential infections early.

3. Communication Channels: Establish communication channels for employees to report any health concerns or symptoms promptly. Collaboration with Medical Experts:

4. Partner with organisations with expertise in infectious diseases to provide accurate guidance and recommendations.

5. Regular Updates: Keep employees informed about the latest developments, preventive measures, and recommendations related to leptospirosis.

By implementing these measures, organisations can effectively mitigate the risk of leptospirosis among their business travellers and employees, ensuring their health and well-being during travel and beyond.

This article is authored by Vikram Vora, medical director, Indian sub-continent, International SOS.

Story Saved
Live Score
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, November 30, 2023
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals