Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Leptospirosis, a disease transmitted by rat urine, has claimed at least 22 lives in rural Thailand and made hundreds sick. Leptospirosis, otherwise known as Weil's disease, has centred on the northern province of Prae and the northeastern province of Surin, said health officials.

An official in the Surin province of Thailand said 12 people had succumbed to the disease in 1998 and about 90 had hospitalised. He added the trend is on the rise and the provincial health office is monitoring the outbreak. In 1997 the disease killed 20 in the province and made 349 people ill.

Puchong Veerapalin, chief of Prae provincial health office, said the death toll in his province had risen to 10, while 121 were ill. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease spread by rats and other rodents. Humans can contract it via scratches or other wounds when walking in contaminated water or by being bitten by an infected creature.

The officials blamed diseased rat urine for the outbreaks and said most victims were infected through cuts and scratches caused by rice stalks or sharp grass. "The health office is campaigning for rice farmers to put on boots when they go to farm or wait until the rice fields dry up before entering the areas," the Surin health official said.

Leptospirosis is caused by hooked organisms that burrow into organs like the kidneys, lungs and liver. It leads to jaundice, meningitis and kidney failure, but is curable if detected early.

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