The South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) has confirmed the death of four people from the rat-borne disease leptospirosis at the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH), within the past three months. The SWRHA said one patient died in September and another in October. It also recorded two deaths in November, emanating from 14 admissions to the SFGH.
A statement from the SWRHA yesterday confirmed that from the month of August to date, a total of 35 suspected cases were admitted to the SFGH. The majority was admitted after the devastating Divali-day floods. Laboratory tests confirmed ten of the 35 patients had actually contracted the disease, which is spread though rat faeces and urine.
One male patient, a market vendor, remains warded in a serious condition. The vendor said he did notice an increase in rats, which were displaced by the floods, in the area where he stored his sweet potatoes, but did not pay much attention until he became ill.
The SWRHA produced a chart which showed six suspected cases were admitted in August, but only three were confirmed. In September, four of five admitted on suspicion were confirmed and one death was recorded. The second death was recorded in October, which saw a total of ten patients being admitted with varying symptoms such as rashes, vomiting, and fever. Only two were confirmed, however.
For the first ten days in November, 14 patients suspected of contracting leptospirosis sought medical attention at the SFGH, which confirmed one of the cases. Two deaths were also recorded, one last week and the second earlier this week.
According to a nurse at the hospital, all of the patients live in areas prone to flooding – Penal/Debe, Barrackpore, Woodland – and had some kind of attachment to farming. Some were either farmers or vendors who retailed their produce.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said while he was unaware of the many deaths (at the time of the interview), the Chief Medical Officer of Health had embarked on a radio, television and print media campaign earlier, warning about the dangers of flooding and the many diseases it could bring, including leptospirosis. Consumers were advised to sanitise their vegetables with bleach, while farmers were advised against selling produce which had been under water.