Leptospirosis is the most common zoonotic pathogen in the world, being endemic in tropical regions and prevalent after heavy rainfall and flooding. The disease is most notorious for being easily contracted with wildly varying levels of severity.
The disease is caused by pathogenic spirochetes of the genus Leptospira, and is most commonly obtained through contact with infected urine. Locally, Leptospirosis along with Dengue cases increase during the rainy season, specifically during floods.
Leptospirosis can cause a wide range of symptoms including:
- Fever (38-40C)
- Headache, pain behind the eyes (retro-orbital pain), photophobia
- Muscle pain in the calves and lower back (lumbar)
- Eye redness
- Dry cough
- Nausea and vomiting
A more severe iteration can manifest as icteric leptospirosis, also known as Weil Disease, with the following characteristics:
- Severe yellowing of skin or eyes (frank jaundice)
- Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
- Chest pain
- Difficulty in breathing
- Decreased amount of urine (oliguria)
- Blood in urine (hematuria)
- Black, tarry stool
- Flat, purplish-red spots on the skin (petechiae)
- Bleeding in other parts of the body as a result of injury in the small blood vessels
The condition can be treated with oral antibiotics such as Doxycycline or Penicillin during the early course of the disease. For the more severe form of the disease, intravenous antibiotics are usually given.
With local infections stemming mostly from exposure via rodent urine during floods, you may take the following steps to avoid Leptospirosis:
- Avoid unfamiliar bodies of water, such as pools, rivers, or flooded areas, if there are abrasions or cuts of the skin.
- Avoid contact with environments potentially contaminated with animal urine, especially rodent-infested areas.
- Avoid ingesting, swallowing, or inhaling water from lakes or rivers.
- Wash promptly after being exposed to unfamiliar bodies of water and treat any cuts or abrasions with antibacterial medication and bandages.
- Wear protective clothing and shoes.
With the disease being similar to Dengue in its environmental requirements to thrive, it is also recommended to apply the same prevention procedures for Dengue during the rainy season.
People who own pets may consider annual vaccination against leptospirosis or other diseases with their veterinarian. Pets are also at-risk of contracting and infection as they are less particular about where or what they drink.
It always pays to be informed.
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