Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Health Advisory: Avoid Wading in The Flood



The rainy season here in the Philippines started last June and may end up to December. It will practically rain almost half of the year. Of course, with the rainy season comes the typhoons, storms and the perennial flooding of our streets everywhere.

Last June, the Department of Health issued a health advisory to the public to avoid wading in floodwaters because of the rising cases of Leptospirosis in the country.It has been reported that the recorded cases of Leptospirosis from January this year up to 21 May 2011 were 454 cases, yielding a 74.6% higher compared to the same period last year with 260 cases. Thirty-two (32) deaths from the said disease have been recorded this year for the period mentioned, compared to last year’s 8 mortalities.

Leptospirosis is a potentially fatal infectious disease caused by a spirochete. It is transmitted by wild animals and rats through contact with infected soil or water. These infected animals pass out the bacteria in their urine. People contract the disease by either ingesting contaminated food or water or by broken skin and mucous membrane (eyes, nose, sinuses, mouth) contact with the contaminated water or soil. Flooding which is very common here in our country helps spread the bacteria in our environment.

Leptospirosis symptoms begin from two to 25 days after initial direct exposure to the urine or tissue of an infected animal. This can even occur via contaminated soil or water. Veterinarians, pet shop owners, sewage workers, and farm employees are at particularly high risk. People participating in outdoor sporting activities like canoeing, rafting, hiking, and camping can also come into contact with contaminated water or soil.

Leptospirosis is said to be biphasic. The first phase begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle pains, intense headache. The patient can become asymptomatic and improve on the 5th to the 9th day. The second phase begins after a few days of feeling well then the patient will have recurrence of the fever and complications may set in. This phase is characterized by a multiorgan involvement – meningitis, liver damage (causing jaundice or yellowing of the skin), and renal failure.

High dose antibiotic therapy is effective if initiated early in the course of the disease. Mortality rates for severe illness with leptospirosis can range from 5%-40%, depending on the severity of organ dysfunction and the patient's general health prior to infection. Most previously healthy patients have a good prognosis and will make a full recovery.

Prevention is better than cure. Avoid wading in flood waters. Wear a protective gear like rubber boots if you have to walk in flooded areas.