The Philippines is regularly battered by tropical cyclones that bring flooding to large portions of the country from late May to early December. Leptospirosis is a disease associated with freshwater flooding and is an infection commonly transmitted to humans from water that has been contaminated by animal urine (usually rats), and comes in contact with lesions on the skin, eyes, or with the mucous membranes.
From January to 24 Sep this year, there have been at least 2061 recorded cases of leptospirosis with 156 casualties in the Philippines whilst in Thailand at the moment as flood waters continue to menace Bangkok and its surrounds, as well as the hundreds of cases of acute diarrhoea that are being reported each day, there have been 2 deaths from leptospirosis.
The signs and symptoms of leptospirosis include fever, chills, and intense headache. These appear within 4 to 14 days after exposure to contaminated flood waters or even mud. These may be accompanied by red eyes, jaundice, tea-coloured urine, and difficulty in urinating. In extreme cases, complications like meningitis, renal failure, and respiratory distress may arise and lead to death.
Advice to travellers: Minimise exposure to floodwaters where possible and wear protective gears such as boots and long pants in wading through flooded areas to reduce the risk of infection as the bacteria usually find their way through abraded skin or open wounds. Antibiotics may be recommended as prevention for those at high risk of exposure; or as treatment for those experiencing early symptoms.