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(PRESS RELEASE) – The Ministry of Health has shifted into high gear to deal with an increase in leptospirosis.
Last year, the ministry noted an increase in those who contracted leptospirosis, with a confirmed number of 26 cases and four deaths.
During a stakeholder consultation with town and village councils on Feb. 2, Medical Officer for Health, Dr. Sharon Belmar George said it is important to engage all stakeholders as part of the disease management plan.
“Today we are meeting with the constituency councils because it is important to ensure that at the community level, preventative measures are also enforced. The constituency councils are very important stakeholders, and are part of our management plan in reducing the rodent population. As we know, rodents and small mammals are responsible for leptospirosis. So we will discuss with them, their roles and responsibilities in assisting the Ministry of Health.”
Dr. George stressed that individuals should pay close attention to the signs and symptoms of leptospirosis.
“Leptospirosis in the initial phase is quite similar to a lot of other diseases. In the early phase, it starts with high fever, body pains, headaches similar to dengue fever, respiratory symptoms and gastrointestinal signs and symptoms. In the latter phase of the disease that is between 4 – 9 days later, we notice organ failure and complications like renal failure, jaundice and yellowing of the eyes and that could develop into multi organ failure if not treated by the necessary antibiotics in a timely manner.”
Dr. Belmar added that it is important to take the necessary measures to secure food and water storage, refrain from leaving food outside for pets at nights which will serve as an invitation for rodents. Disinfect canned food surfaces before use and ensure that surroundings and homes are kept clean.
Meanwhile, Environmental Health Officer, Charletta Charles said while the department works to eradicate the problem; precaution is better than cure.
“Leptospirosis is a preventable disease, and it is treatable. We should not have persons dying from leptospirosis. During our community assessments we found that there are a lot of environmental factors which lead to an increase in the rodent population: the indiscriminate dumping of garbage, clogged drains and guttering, and derelict vehicles on the side of the roads, which all provide food and shelter for rats and other rodents which have the potential to spread leptospirosis.”
Gros Islet constituency council supervisor, Paul Lord, said the government cannot do it alone.
“If we take precaution, we would have a better and healthier Saint Lucia,” he said. “Let us not dump our garbage indiscriminately. We have always been told the days and times that the garbage collection passes. Let us put the garbage out on the day so that we don’t leave garbage around the area where all the various animals can scatter it. We also want to encourage the sanitation workers to wear the protective gear that they have been given.”
Mr. Lord encourages citizens to play their part, help build their community, and contribute to St. Lucia’s beautification.