Posts Tagged ‘Leptospirosis’

Philippines and Thailand – Leptospirosis Risk


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.

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South Pacific – Leptospirosis

Dr Colleen Lau

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is often misdiagnosed as dengue because symptoms can be very similar. The bacteria are carried by animals (including rodents, pets, livestock, and wildlife), and excreted in their urine. Humans can become infected by direct contact with animals, or contact with water and soil that has been contaminated by animal urine. The risk of infection is especially high after flooding, because floodwaters can spread the bacteria, and wash them into rivers and streams. During flooding, people often have to wade in water and therefore have cuts, wounds, and waterlogged skin, all of which increase the risk of infection. In the Pacific Islands, recent outbreaks have occurred after cyclones and flooding on some islands including Fiji and New Caledonia. People participating in outdoor activities are also at risk because of contact with fresh water and soil. The risk of infection can be reduced by wearing protective clothing and boots, cleaning and covering wounds, and avoiding swimming in freshwater streams and rivers after heavy rainfall. The bacteria do not survive in seawater, so there is no risk of leptospirosis from swimming in the ocean.

Leptospirosis research team at work in American Samoa. Left: Unloading fieldwork gear on the remote Manu’a Islands in the far east of American Samoa. Right: Collecting blood samples and questionnaire data. Our study collected data from over 800 people from 5 islands in American Samoa, and found that about 15% of people have had previous leptospirosis infections. The study investigated environmental factors that increased the risk of leptospirosis transmission, produced maps to predict high-risk areas, and provided information to improve public health interventions.

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