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Growing Trend of Leptospirosis Infections Among Women in Sri Lanka, Health Officials Report

Health officials in Sri Lanka have identified an increasing trend of leptospirosis infections, commonly referred to as rat fever, among women. This development marks a significant shift from the disease’s historical association with males in high-risk occupations.

Dr. Thushani Dabarera, Consultant Epidemiologist at the Epidemiology Unit, stated, “This observation challenges previous perceptions of the disease as predominantly affecting males engaged in high-risk occupations such as paddy cultivation, cattle farming, and gem mining. However, over the years, we have noticed a growing tendency of women being infected with leptospirosis.”

Last year, nearly 9,000 cases of the disease were reported, and close to 5,000 cases have already been recorded this year, according to Dr. Dabarera. The majority of these cases have been concentrated in regions such as Ratnapura, Kegalle, Galle, Kalutara, Monaragala, and Kurunegala.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection transmitted through water contaminated with the urine of infected animals, particularly rodents. The risk of infection spikes following heavy rainfall, which increases the likelihood of water sources becoming contaminated. Symptoms include muscle pain or tenderness, jaundice, cough, shortness of breath, and in severe cases, renal, heart, or respiratory failure.

Dr. Dabarera emphasized the importance of seeking medical attention promptly upon experiencing symptoms, as early diagnosis and treatment significantly improve outcomes. Preventive measures such as maintaining good hygiene, avoiding contact with potentially contaminated water, and ensuring proper waste management are crucial in curbing the spread of the disease.

“Efforts are underway to raise awareness among the public, particularly those engaged in high-risk occupations such as agriculture, gem mining, and sewage work, to take necessary precautions to minimize exposure to the bacteria causing leptospirosis,” she added.

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