Leptospirosis cases increasing, avoid contaminated flood waters

Health Secretary Enrique Ona today advised the public that those who have waded in floodwaters to watch out for signs and symptoms of leptospirosis and bring themselves in for a checkup at a health facility as the number of cases reported nationwide is increasing.
From the month of January to September 24, 2011, there were 2,061 cases of leptospirosis reported. The figure is 194.8 percent higher compared to the number of cases in the same period of last year (699 cases). There were already 156 deaths reported.
“Leptospirosis is an infection commonly transmitted to humans from water that has been contaminated by animal urine (usually rats), and comes in contact with lesion[s] in the skin, eyes, or with the mucous membranes,” the health chief explained.
Most cases came from Western Visayas (824 cases), National Capital Region (411), Central Luzon (166), and Davao (131). Ages of affected individuals ranged from less than one year to 77 years old. Majority (88.2%) of the cases were male. Most (29.8%) of the cases belonged to the 20-29 years age group.
Signs and symptoms of leptospirosis include fever, chills, and intense headaches. They appear 4-14 days after exposure to contaminated flood waters or even mud. These maybe accompanied by red eyes, jaundice, tea-colored urine, and difficulty of urination. In extreme cases, complications like meningitis, renal failure, and respiratory distress may arise and lead to death.
Early treatment with antibiotics in the hospital is known to prevent fatal complications. It is also possible to prevent illness with preventive intake of antibiotics among those who are continually exposed and who are still asymptomatic. The Department of Health (DOH) has begun preventive treatment in heavily flooded areas.
High risk individuals include mostly men because of their constant exposure to contaminated flood waters. Wearing protective gear such as boots or even wearing long pants can reduce the risk from exposure. The bacteria usually find their way through abraded skin or even just minor cuts.
“The rains are not yet over and many areas are still flooded because of the recent typhoons, so we are reiterating our advice to the people watch out for these signs and symptoms and to go the nearest health facility to have themselves checked up,” said Secretary Ona.