More cases of ‘rat fever’ emerge from flood-hit Kerala; death toll reaches 41

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here have been 41 confirmed rat fever deaths across Kerala — following the most devastating flood the state had ever seen in a century — since August. 20 of these cases are from Kozhikode alone.

Adding more concern to the situation, doctors have warned that the death toll could rise since most patients are being admitted only in the later stages of the disease, for which

Two of the three deaths that were reported on Monday in the state were also from Kozhikode. Two volunteers — Kumari from Koovappady near Perumbavoor in Ernakulam, and Suresh of Kodaly near Chalakudy in Thrissur — who had taken part in the cleaning drive to help flood-affected families return to their homes, succumbed to suspected rat fever, on Sunday.

Preliminary data from the District Medical Officers (DMO) office suggests that 187 suspected cases have so far been reported across the district of which 84 cases of rat fever have been confirmed, says a report on TNM.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by corkscrew-shaped bacteria called Leptospira.

Dr Keerthi, a Medical Officer from Chennai says, “A zoonotic infection is one which is spread to humans through animals. It is transmitted either through direct contact with body fluids, usually the urine, of an infected animal, or through contact with soil or water which has been contaminated with infected urine.”

If the infected urine contaminates water then, any person with a small cut or injury coming in contact with this water, may get infected as well.

Signs and symptoms can range from mild headaches, muscle pains, and fevers; to severe bleeding from the lungs or meningitis. Up to 13 different genetic types of Leptospira may cause disease in humans.

The fever is said to commonly spread through the urine of infected rats, hence it is commonly called rat fever.

Diagnosis: Leptospirosis is diagnosed by blood and urine tests. Those found to have contracted the infection are treated with doxycycline and supportive measures as deemed necessary.


5-15% of untreated cases can progress to a more severe and potentially fatal stage. Even though Leptospirosis is difficult to diagnose clinically, as it can appear to be very similar to many other diseases such like dengue, typhoid and viral hepatitis here are some possible symptoms of the disease include the following:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Jaundice
  • Red eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite

Prevention of rat fever

Dr Jayashree told TNM that the risk of acquiring leptospirosis can be reduced by avoiding wading into contaminated water. One must ensure that wounds are fully healed before wading through contaminated or dirty water.

If one has no other option other than to wave into the water, they must use protective clothing and shoes to reduce chances of contracting the infection. Personal hygiene is good additional protection.