Nine people have died of leptospirosis in Kerala over the weekend, Mathrubhumi quoted the state health ministry as saying on Sunday. Six people have died in Kozhikode and Palakkad, two in Malappuram and one person in Thiruvananthapuram.

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease (transmitted from animals to humans), commonly known as rat fever. The possibility of contracting it is high after floods as people come in contact with water contaminated by the urine of infected rats or other rodents. The elderly and those suffering from kidney or liver ailments are more vulnerable to the disease. Its symptoms include high fever, headache, chills, abdominal pain and rashes.

With three deaths over the weekend, 17 people showing leptospirosis symptoms have died in Kozhikode district so far, reported The Hindu. A special isolation ward has been opened at the Kozhikode Medical College and Hospital, said Minister for Labour and Excise TP Ramakrishnan. A similar facility may be set up at the Institute of Chest Diseases.

The government has also opened a 24-hour helpline at the district magistrate’s office. Medical camps will be set up to distribute doxycycline tablets, the government added.

According to the government, 57 people have died of rat fever in the state since August 1. There have been 302 confirmed and 719 suspected cases in the past month, reported ANI. But Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Rajeev Sadanandan pegged the number of suspected cases at 140, The News Minute reported.

The state has issued a high alert in all its 14 districts except Kasaragod. Health Minister KK Shailaja said there was no need to panic. “Every hospital is stocked with all the required medicines,” Mathrubhumi quoted her as saying. Industries Minister EP Jayarajan said free medicines would be given to all.