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Leptospirosis Expert warns butchers, fishermen, pet owners against contracting infection from pets

He also advocated massive awareness on the risk factors, symptoms and treatment of Leptospirosis among the public.

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A medical researcher, Dr Bamidele Iwalokun, has warned butcher men, fishermen and others from having frequent contacts with pigs, rats, cats and other pets to guard them against contracting  leptospirosis.

Iwalokun, Head of Immunology and Vaccinology Research Department, Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos State, gave the advice on Thursday while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

He also advocated massive awareness on the risk factors, symptoms and treatment of Leptospirosis among the public in the country.

It is an acute zoonotic disease that can be found in rats, pets, pigs, rats and cats and can kill any of its victims, he said.

It can also affect humans whose foodstuffs have been contaminated by urine from domestic animals, he said.

He said that butchers who work in abattoirs, veterinary doctors, herdsmen as well as those who keep pets, swimmers and fishermen were at a great risk of contracting it.

Also susceptible to being affected were those wadding in water contaminated with infected urine, the expert said.

“The germ is usually found in the urine and other body secretions of some domestic and wild animals such as dogs, pigs, cattle, rat, and cats.

“It is also transmitted from animal to man through direct contact with their urine or indirectly from food, water and soil contaminated with infected urine from these animals.

“It is a bacterial infection from domestic animals with aerobic spiral shape (Leptospina interrogans),’’ he said.

Iwalokun said that the germ could cause several symptoms, some of which could be mistaken for other diseases while in the human system.

Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all, he said.

“The symptoms of Leptospirosis occur in its victims in two phases: the first phase is characterised by the appearance of the common symptoms of Leptospirosis.

“They include fever, skin rash, headache, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

“After a brief period of wellness for some people, the second phase occurs.

“This phase is characterized by liver damage, leading to jaundice, kidney and brain damage or meningitis and finally death if treatment is not given,” he said.

“The germ is pathogenic to humans. However, many people are infected with it without showing any symptoms,’’ he said.

The researcher said that only 10 per cent of infected patients had developed active disease and between five and 10 per cent of these patients had fatal experience.

Iwalokun said that the awareness would also improve the knowledge, attitude and behaviour of people toward preventing the disease.

“Many Nigerians are not aware of Leptospirosis as an occupational hazard, despite that it was reported as an occupational hazard in Nigeria in the early 80s.

“This germ was first discovered among Napoleon army in Cairo, Egypt, in 1812 but was first identified by staining method in 1902."

Iwalokun said that incubation period from exposure to illness ranged from two days to 29 days but on the average seven days after exposure.

He said that leptospirosis could still be diagnosed using imaging techniques such as chest X-ray and the use of different variants of nucleic acid amplification tests.

He said that amplification tests were very expensive to set up and very difficult without international support to decentralize for primary health care.

He said that Leptospirosis could be treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline and penicillin.

Iwalokun advised butchers to be wearing personal protective tools to eliminate human germ contact.

“Animal hygiene and sanitation of the environment is also very important.

“Surveillance for Leptospirosis is also very important to map areas at risk of sporadic outbreaks or endemicity for mitigation is important,” he said.

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