Fight leptospirosis with good hygiene, says expert

From left: H Krishna Kumar, Abdul Razak Muttalif, Anthony Tan
From left: H Krishna Kumar, Abdul Razak Muttalif and Anthony Tan.

PETALING JAYA: A medical expert has cited good hygiene as essential in preventing leptospirosis, a deadly disease linked to rat urine.

“Poor hygiene is the main contributor to leptospirosis and it is most important to prevent exposure to infected animals,” said a former president of the Malaysian Medical Association, H Krishna Kumar.

He was commenting on concerns expressed by several quarters in recent weeks following a health ministry alert against the disease, which is a bacterial infection typically spread by rodents.

According to a news report last Wednesday, the number of leptospirosis cases in Malaysia has steadily increased from 2,268 in 2011 to 8,291 in 2015, although the figure dropped last year to 5,284.

Statistics show that 55 people died from the disease in 2011. The figure for 2015 was 78. Last year, it dropped to 52.

The Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) alleged that Malaysians were generally careless with public hygiene.

“Malaysians do not care about public cleanliness,” Fomca vice-president Yusof Abdul Rahman told FMT. “A filthy restaurant will not prevent people from eating in it.”

He said this apathy was also evident at recreational spots and noted that leptospirosis sufferers usually caught the disease at such places.

However, Anthony Tan, executive director of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development, said only a small segment of the Malaysian population displayed a sloppy attitude towards public cleanliness.

The culprits were usually operators of food businesses, he said.

Former Institute of Respiratory Medicine director Abdul Razak Muttalif was recently reported to have said that infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), leptospirosis and rabies were making a comeback in Malaysia.

Following this, Parti Warisan Sabah deputy president Darell Leiking called on the Sabah state government to carry out thorough health checks on immigrants.

Report by Ivy Chong, Nurul Azwa and Afiqah Farieza