Floods and Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the bacteria leptospira. Though we often hear of outbreaks in Malaysia and also deaths associated with this disease, the incidence can go up during the rainy season and floods. This is due to the contaminated water from animal urine especially rodents that the person comes into contact with. The bacteria can get through cuts in the skin or through ingesting contaminated water that can occur in floods.

The disease can occur in two phases. The first can start anywhere between two days to four weeks after exposure and symptoms include high fever, headaches, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rash. Some might have no symptoms. About 10% can go into the second phase called Weil’s disease where they can get kidney and liver failure and meningitis. Weil’s disease has a high mortality.

The diagnosis is done by a blood test as symptoms sometimes can mimic many other diseases.

Treatment is by antibiotics.

The ideal however is still to prevent oneself from getting the disease. Any cuts or bruises must be covered with waterproof plaster. Avoid wading or swimming in flood waters especially children which we so often see them do in Malaysia. When swimming you can easily swallow the contaminated water. Young children, pregnant women, elderly and the immuno suppressed especially have to be more careful as they can get more severe disease.

So during this rainy season be careful when you wade in dirty water especially if you have any cuts and if you get a fever go and see a doctor.

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