PETALING JAYA , Dec 2 ― The bad weather expected until this weekend could bring more than flash floods and other calamities as residents are warned against wading in floodwaters because of the risk of leptospirosis.
In the east coast, the region’s Environmental Research Institute advised the public against dipping themselves in floodwaters for too long or often to prevent contracting leptospirosis or rat urine disease.
According to the institute, which is based at Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, floodwaters are often contaminated with all kinds of bacteria.
Its director, Assoc Prof Hafizan Juahir, said the bacteria can enter the human body through cuts or cavities or if a person accidentally drinks the water.
“Ensure that food waste and refuse are placed in closed containers such as rubbish bins or plastic. Food waste and refuse can attract disease-bearing animals to homes, especially in flood-hit areas,” he told Bernama.
He said studies conducted on cases of leptospirosis showed that clinical characteristics and environmental and socio-economic factors were closely associated with the disease.
“Leptospirosis has been recognised as a global public health problem because of the rising rate of epidemics and cases in developing countries,” he said.
“An outbreak of the disease usually occurs after a flood caused by heavy seasonal rain, like what is happening now in our country.”
Hafizan said epidemiological studies showed that infection was usually associated with farmers, sewerage workers, veterinarians and handlers of certain animals.
“Leptospirosis can also be contracted during recreational activities such as picnics, swimming and canoeing,” he said.
He said in 2005, some 100 people died of leptospirosis in two days after a major flood in Mumbai, India.
“The early symptoms of leptospirosis are usually fever, myalgia (muscle pain), headache, cold, vomiting, dyspnea (laboured breathing) and jaundice,” he said.
Hafizan said dogs and rats were the main carriers of the infection to humans, especially in the rainy season and in flooded areas.
He advised people suffering from the symptoms to seek medical treatment immediately as any delay could result in the risk of death.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Meteorlogical Department has predicted that several states will be affected by heavy rain for the next three days.
Deputy director-general Dr Mohd Rosaidi Che Abas said the downpour is due to the convergence of the wind which comes from the eastern and western coastal areas.
“This is not an unusual occurrence but it is due to the extremely low pressure in the weather condition,” he said, adding the east coast states are heading towards the monsoon season.
“At the moment, the winds have shown that they are at a yellow stage. This is the beginning stage of the turbulent flow for the wind.”
“We will continue to check and see if there are any changes in the weather conditions,” he said.
He added members of the public are advised to be in close areas during this period and keep themselves safe.
The affected areas during this downpour are Terengganu, Kelantan, Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak.
The National Disaster Management Agency director-general Datuk Zaitun Ab Samah said every agency should set up an emergency centre where they would be able to take proactive measures if a flood occurs.
“Authorities in the agency must immediately inform us if a flood occurs in their district,” he said.
He said each agency should provide their emergency centre contact number so it would be easier to contact the person-in-charge in the particular centre.