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Wading In Floodwater Is Not The Only Reason You Get Leptospirosis: 4 Ways To Prevention
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  • Editor’s Note: This article is intended for information purposes only. It does not substitute a doctor. It is vital to always consult a medically trained professional for advice that suits your needs best.

    Leptospirosis prevention is important not only during rainy season, when flooding usually occurs, but at all times. You may even get this bacterial disease without knowing it.

    That's what happened to GMA-7 news reporter Oscar Oida in early 2022. His wife, TV5 entertainment reporter MJ Marfori, said in an interview with PEP.ph that Oscar had a high fever, ranging from 39.5 degrees to 40.2 degrees Centigrade, starting on February 16. But he tested negative on the COVID-19 antigen test.

    Oscar's fever continued and days later, he was also vomiting, so MJ brought him to the hospital. He was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) because his condition worsened.

    Oscar  was treated by different specialists and given a dialysis treatment. But he got no definite diagnosis, until an infectious disease doctor concluded, based on the presentation of the patient's symptoms within 48 hours, that had leptospirosis.

    The doctors and his colleagues who treated Oscar believed, according to MJ, that the patient most likely got the leptospirosis-causing bacteria from the rugs he used for his TV report. He worked on his report a day before his fever started.

    Oscar's report involved trying out what his subjects were doing. It's a feature on a group of women in a low-income community that makes rugs out of waste fabric. At that time, the materials that the women were using had just been featured on Vogue magazine and called them woven textile.

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    What causes leptospirosis?

    Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It affects both humans and animals.

    When animals get infected, they can spread the bacteria through their urine. The liquid waste can get into water or soil, and can survive there for weeks to months. A lot of various kinds of wild and domestic animals carry the bacterium, including:

    • Cattle
    • Pigs
    • Horses
    • Dogs
    • Rodents
    • Wild animals

    Infected animals may have no symptoms of the disease, but they may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment. They can do it continuously or every once in a while for a few months up to several years.

    On the other hand, humans can become infected by:

    • Getting in direct contact with urine (or other body fluids, except saliva) from infected animals
    • Getting in contact with water, soil, or food contaminated with the urine of infected animals

    Afterwards, the bacteria can enter the body through:

    • Skin, particularly is it's broken from a cut or scratch
    • Mucous membranes, such as eyes, nose, or mouth

    Another way that the bacteria can enter the body is by drinking contaminated water. Outbreaks of leptospirosis are usually caused by exposure to contaminated water, such as floodwaters, according to the CDC. But person to person transmission is rare.

    Symptoms of leptospirosis

    From the time of exposure to the Leptospira bacteria, the incubation period runs from  7 to 10 days, according to the Department of Health (DOH). The patient may experience any of the following symptoms:

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    • Fever
    • Non-specific symptoms of muscle pain, headache
    • Calf-muscle pain and reddish eyes in some cases

    Additional symptoms in severe cases includ yellowish body discoloration, dark-colored urine, light stools, low urine output, and acute headache because of the effects in the liver, kidney, or brain.

    Experts note that the wide-ranging symptoms can be attributed to other diseases, especially if the patient has no known exposure to floodwaters. Such as the case of Oscar Oida. That's why the patient has to be checked by the doctor and his or her companions be asked on possible exposure to contamination.

    Early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics within two days of illness spell the difference in preventing complications. If not treated, leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, liver failure, respiratory distress, and meningitis, which is the inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord. Untreated leptospirosis can even lead to death.

    Leptospirosis prevention

    The DOH recommends these preventive measures:

    • Avoid swimming or wading in potentially contaminated water or floodwater
    • Use proper protection, like boots and gloves, when an activity requires exposure to contaminated water, soil, or other materials
    • Drain potentially contaminated water when possible
    • Control rats in the household by using rat traps or rat poison and maintaining cleanliness

    Read also: Leptospirosis Symptoms And How to Protect Your Family

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