Domestic animals can transmit leptospirosis - health inspector
Veterinary public health inspector at the Westmoreland Health Department, Jodi-Ann Harris, said that leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans by domestic animals.
Harris said that "while the rats do get all the blame", the leptospirosis bacteria can also come from dogs, cattle, pigs and horses.
She noted that the leptospira germs that cause leptospirosis are primarily housed in rodents, which are the main reservoir for the disease.
However, she said, domestic animals "can become infected from the reservoir animal or rats, which we see inside and around our homes.
"If these (domestic) animals are not properly managed ... fed and stuff like that, and the germs get into their food source, or they get infected from whatever other sources, then they can also become a source of infection to us because we are in close contact with them. However, primarily, rodents are the ones carrying around the germs with them in their urine," Harris pointed out.
She said that while leptospirosis is not generally a concern, "it is a matter of how well we manage our environment that will determine the seriousness of it.
"Based on the fact that we always have rodents around us does make us susceptible to being infected with the disease," she pointed out.
"So what happens is that, depending on how well we are managing our environment, the effect might not be seen. However, in some cases where we are having problems with waste disposal, then that can lead to an increase in the population of rodents, and so the suspected cases of leptospirosis will increase. So persons might be more exposed if we have more rodents around."
INCREASE IN CASES
Health Promotion and education officer in the Westmoreland Health Department, Gerald Miller, informed that the latter part of 2017 saw an increase in suspected cases of the disease in the parish, which prompted the Health Department to seek funding to beef up education to sensitise the public about the dangers of leptospirosis.
"We have to get persons to buy into the idea of protecting their homes, and to protect themselves and their families as best as possible," he said.
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that could lead to possible fatal infection of the kidney, liver, brain, lung or heart.
While it cannot be spread from human to human, it can be contracted through exposure to the urine or body fluids of infected animals.