Saturday, May 16, 2009

Outbreak of leptospirosis

A Myanmar illegal immigrant from the Juru detention centre here died of leptospirosis at Bukit Mertajam Hospital on Tuesday.

As of noon yesterday, 26 cases were reported -- 24 cases are being treated at Bukit Mertajam Hospital and two at Seberang Jaya Hospital.

All affected were detainees at the centre.

The 21-year-old Myanmar died after being treated at the hospital's intensive care unit for suspected leptospirosis since his admission on May 7.

He showed symptoms of pedal oedema (fluid accumulation in the leg), fever, decreased urine output, constipation and lethargy.
Three cases with similar symptoms were also reported on Tuesday and upon further investigations by the state health department and Seberang Perai Tengah district health office, more cases were identified and referred to Bukit Mertajam Hospital.

The department said samples from the camp's water supply had been taken for checks on contamination, and that its health teams were visiting the camp daily to monitor the inmates for similar symptoms.

Disinfection had also been carried out at the detention camp's blocks, toilets and bathrooms.

It is believed that the outbreak of the disease was caused by rat urine.

Sources said initial investigations revealed that bacteria similar to that found in rat urine was found in the fresh water sample taken from the camp.

The source, however, said the situation was under control.

Checks at the detention depot yesterday showed that the compound was placed on high security.

Rela personnel manning the entrance said they received instructions to bar visitors who did not have the immigration department's permission to enter the camp.

State immigration department officials could not be reached for comment.

Leptospirosis, which is also known as Weil's disease or syndrome, canicola fever or Fort Bragg fever, is a rare and severe contagious bacterial infection that affects humans and a wide range of animals.

The infection is commonly transmitted to humans by allowing animal urine-contaminated water to come in contact with unhealed breaks in the skin, eyes or the mucous membranes.