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Unexpected weather causes increase in rat fever cases

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By Eunice Ruth

The increase in the number of suspected rat fever cases reported this year is due to the unexpected weather, specifically monsoon related changes and the cultivation of abandoned fields, said Consultant Epidemiologist of the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Manjula Kariyawasam.

As of mid June, the number of such suspected cases stands at 3,500.

When contacted, he noted that Ratnapura has turned out to be a high-risk area with 25.3 per cent infections whereas the other Districts of Kalutara, Kegalle, Galle, Badulla, Colombo, Anuradhapura, Hambanthota, and Kurunegala listed 40% of infections involving farmers, as they mostly work in fields where water stagnates.

He noted that the public recently started cultivating their abandoned lands after more than 10 years without agricultural activity, and that this made the public get infected with the bacteria easily. 

This bacteria found in the water, stagnating in these fields can enter the body via damaged skin (minor cuts and scratches) and also through contact with the mucus membranes (eyes and mouth), he added.

Kariyawasam noted that it is important for the farmers, gemstone miners and persons who work on drains to obtain prophylactic treatment from nearest Medical Officer of Health and for this treatment to be taken once a week.

Meanwhile, he noted that this bacterial infection can be successfully treated with antibiotics once detected in its early stages while delay in receiving treatments can lead to serious consequences or even death due to damage caused to vital internal organs.

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