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Mumbai flood - Take antibiotics immediately if you walked through flood waters, says BMC

Leptospirosis can be dangerous for children and pregnant women.

BMC officials have issued a health advisory, telling people to take antibiotics within 72 hours in case they waded through flood waters on Tuesday, 29th August 2017. The statement was issued in public interest to prevent episodes of leptospirosis and other monsoon-related diseases in the future. Contaminated flood water may contain the urine of rats which carries the leptospira, the bacteria that causes leptospirosis.

These pathogens can enter the human body easily through cuts in the skin, through the mucous membranes of the eyes or even through intact skin, if the person is immersed under flood waters for a very long time. Inhalation of water may cause the infection through the mucous membranes of the respiratory system.

(Read: Are you at risk for leptospirosis?)

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Scores of people were left stranded in the flood waters on Tuesday, which brought back memories of the deluge of 26th July, 2005. This has caused experts to issue a warning of a possible leptospirosis contagion through infected flood waters. The officials have identified the risk as low, moderate and high risk. Low risk means that the person has only waded through water without any cut or abrasions on the skin. Medium risk constitutes wading through water with cuts or ingestion of the contaminated flood water. High risk means that the person may have stayed in the infected water for long hours with cuts or abrasions, or may have ingested the water.

(Read: Tips to keep monsoon-related illness at bay)

The BMC officials held a meeting with medical experts working with the Maharashtra government and hospitals to chalk out the recommendation. The focus of the meeting was communicable diseases, in the light of the Tuesday floods. High risk areas for leptospirosis were identified and medical camps were formed to operated in these areas. On Thursday, civic officials surveyed slum and identified potential victims of leptospirosis. According to a press release issued by the BMC, 24,898 people, 1,261 children and 74 pregnant women were identified.

Although civic bodies have issued the warning today, messages doing rounds on the social media, advising people to take Doxycycline 200mg and Azithromycin 500mg a day after the floods. However, it is advised that people first visit their general physicians first before self medicating. Pregnant women are mostly at risk because acute leptospirosis infection is known to cause abortions and fetal death. These medicines are available at civic hospitals as well as health centres.

Reference:

Levett, P. N. (2001). Leptospirosis. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 14(2), 296 326. http://doi.org/10.1128/CMR.14.2.296-326.2001

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