The rainy season is coming. At this time of the year, the Philippines are prone to developing outbreak of Leptospirosis. Last year, according to the DOH survey, there had been 149 victims reported starting in January to August due to the consecutive storms that visited the country. While some of the victims are able to recover, the others didn't because it was too late for them to know that they have the disease. In order for us to prevent the experience from happening again, let us take a closer look on Leptospirosis and learn what we need to protect ourselves from being infected.
Leptospirosis also known as Weil's Disease or Weil Syndrome is a disease that can affect humans and animals. It came from the spirochete bacteria, called Leptospira. It is widely spread in different countries.
To be infected by Leptospirosis, a human or animal has to be exposed to infected water, food, soil and urine of an infected animal. It enters your body through food consumption, entry to unhealed broken skin and mucous membranes such as through the eyes.
Animals that are usually infected by the disease are mice, dogs, cats, skunk, rats, cattles, pigs, horses, and wild animals. Those who are prone to be infected are farmers, vegetarians, slaughterhouse due to blood exposure, hikers, mountain climbers, sewer workers and surfers from long exposure in water.
In diagnosing Leptospirosis, Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) are use to confirm the Leptospirosis diagnosis. The most preferable test is the Microscopic Agglutination Test, a serological test that identifies the specific strain and subculture but it takes a long time and is very expensive so it is rarely used.
There are two phases of Leptospirosis. The first phase shows flu-like symptoms: fever, chills, headache, and eye pain from bright lights and muscle aches. The first phase will resolve and the symptoms will disappear for a while. When the second phase begins, some symptoms are stiff neck, abdominal pain, meningitis, liver failure, and kidney failure.
Other symptoms considered Leptospirosis is of Pneumonia: severe headache and muscle ache, chills, high fever, vomiting, red eyes, diarrhea, pain in the abdomen, and rash. In very severe cases, symptoms can include jaundice, meningitis, liver failure, renal failure, extreme body fatigability, edema, vasculitis and even lung and heart problems.
Treatment for Leptospirosis is strict adherence of antibiotics at the early discovery of the disease, which provides high possibility of recovery. In the late discovery of the disease, the person has less possibility of recovery. Victims who died of Leptospirosis often assume a different illness because of the signs and symptoms that resembles other diseases such as Pneumonia, infection, and flu. There are patients who manage to recover by insistent use of strong antibiotics, IV fluids, and medications.
Vaccines are available in European and some Asian countries like China and Cuba. There's no available vaccine yet in the US and Philippines. Scientists needs to figure which strain the disease came from first. There are five strains but in the Philippines, Scientists have to identify the specific serovar from the 25 serovars, the disease came from, to be able to come up with a vaccine.
The best prevention is to provide vaccine to your animals, clean your surroundings to avoid floods, and wear appropriate clothes that will protect you from the infection.