Disease outbreak now under control
THE leptospirosis outbreak reported earlier this year in the Coffs Harbour-Woolgoolga area has subsided. Between mid-April and the end of August, 50 people were confirmed with the potentially fatal disease. Since August 31 no new cases have been diagnosed. The outbreak was linked to a small number of farms. “It’s confined to specific locations and we are working with the farmers responsible for those workplaces and looking for ways to protect humans through the course of their work,” the Director of North Coast Public Health, Dr Paul Corben, told the Advocate in September. Infected workers were presenting at Coffs Harbour with the flu-like symptoms that can be seen in the early stages of the disease. Emergency Department physicians first noticed something unusual happening in late April and at the time were looking at other causes. Common initial symptoms include fever, severe headache, sore muscles, chills, vomiting, and red eyes. Some people with leptospirosis can develop kidney failure, jaundice and haemorrhage into skin and mucous membranes. Meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain) and bleeding in the lungs can also occur. Most people who develop severe disease require hospitalisation and leptospirosis can sometimes be fatal. Leptospirosis is listed as a “notifiable condition’’, meaning it is required by law to be reported to government authorities. Authorities believe it was the type of leptospirosis spread by infected rodent urine. “It’s not associated with where people live but associated with working conditions. People in abattoirs traditionally have been at high risk of leptospirosis,” Dr Corben said.
Infected workers were presenting at Coffs Harbour with the flu-like symptoms that can be seen in the early stages of the disease.