With the recent floods, there have been enough warnings on TV about leptospirosis, an infectious disease caused by an organism passed from animals to humans.
The most common method of acquiring this illness is coming in contact with water that is contaminated with the urine of a carrier animal such as cattle, pigs, rats, cats and dogs.
Once in the water, these microscopic creatures can swim and attach themselves to the skin using their whip-like appendage. They then burrow a hole through the tissues gaining access to the blood stream.
Incubates for 1 to 2 weeks
After a 1- to 2-week incubation period, spirochetes, as they are also called, may produce the following symptoms: fever, tremors, headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, cough, skin rashes and muscle aches, especially pain over the lower calves of the legs.
Many cases of leptospirosis have a mild, flu-like course and symptoms disappear in 5-7 days. However, a few cases progress to more severe complications like kidney failure, liver dysfunction, pneumonitis and damage to the vascular system.
Treatment is by antibiotic therapy to eradicate the organism from the system and supportive care for the organs involved such as muscle relaxants for the calf pain and paracetamol to control the fever.
Of course, prevention is still the best option.
Don’t let them burrow into your skin
1. Clean out canals, waterways and storage areas around your home to discourage possible hiding places of rodents and stray animals.
2. Avoid walking in floodwater.
3. If you have absolutely no choice but to wade in flooded areas, wear protective gear such as boots, closed shoes and socks or stockings to prevent the spirochete from attaching to your skin.
4. Thoroughly wash the skin that was exposed to flood waters with soap and water and alcohol.
5. Chemoprophylaxis may be warranted if the source of the flood waters is highly questionable. Take 1 capsule of Doxycycline 250 mg orally as a single dose as soon as possible. If your home or work place is flooded for a long period of time and repeated exposure to flood waters is unavoidable, you may take the Doxycycline once a week.
Keep safe and stay dry!
Dr. Diana Sarmiento is a mother of three, part-time doctor, and a full-time wife and mother. The topics closest to her heart are women’s health, parenting, and any new information that she can get her hands on. Read more on her personal blog, Filipina M.D.
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