With more rainy days ahead, you should be aware of diseases that your kids can catch if they aren’t careful. Leptospirosis is one such illness and knowing more about it could help you deal with it or avoid it altogether.
Symptoms Leptospirosis usually presents with high fever, chills, severe headaches and vomiting, muscle pains, and red eyes. Sometimes the afflicted child may also have jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes), diarrhea and rashes.
If the disease gets worse, the child may go into kidney failure with scanty urine, liver failure, and meningitis, that is, inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord. Some infected individuals may not have any symptoms. However, severe forms of leptospirosis can be fatal.
Causes Leptospirosis is a disease transmitted by animals. One can usually get it from getting into contact with water contaminated by the urine of infected animals like rodents, dogs, cattle, horses, pigs, etc. It usually gets transmitted to humans by eating or swallowing contaminated food or water. This makes wading in floodwaters a risk for contracting the illness, especially if you or your child have open wounds or lesions.
Children exposed to poor sanitary conditions or with a history of being exposed to flooded waters, and therefore at higher risk of contracting the disease, should be closely observed as they get seriously ill faster and mortality rates are higher than in healthier adults. Although the incubation period of leptospirosis is seven to ten days, patients at risk should be taken promptly to the doctor if they persist with fever for two days. Testing for leptospirosis can be done with a blood or urine sample.
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Antibiotics such as doxycycline or penicillin have proven to be effective against leptospirosis. However, they should be administered early in the course of the disease. Intravenous antibiotics may be required for persons with more severe symptoms. If your child shows leptospirosis symptoms, see your pediatrician immediately.
Preventive Measures This is an infectious disease brought about by poor sanitation and contamination from infected individuals. The DOH has advised the public with these basic tips to prevent these illnesses:
Drink safe water only. If you are unsure of your water, extend the boiling of drinking water to ten minutes or more after it has reached the boiling point.
Do water chlorination.
Wash and cook food properly.
Clean your surroundings regularly and inspect them thoroughly for breeding areas of insects, rats, or flies.
Protect food from rats or insects.
Keep toilets clean and sanitarily dispose of wastes.
Wash your hands with soap after using the toilet and before eating or handling food.
Dissuade children from wading and playing in floodwater. Boots may be used if possible to avoid contact with floodwater.
If your child has open sores or wounds, avoid having them exposed to flood waterand make sure they are covered.
Photo by Dr. Martin Hicklin for PHIL (Public Health and Image Library)
Minette O. Rosario, M.D., DPSMID, FPCP, infectious diseases consultant, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Quezon City