According to Dr. Benjamin Felipe, Jr., a specialist in internal medicine, infectious diseases, and adult immunization at St. Luke’s Medical Center and Capitol Medical Center, “Leptospirosis is caused by the bacteria leptospira interrogans. It’s… common in the Philippines and carried by a lot of mammals, including domestic livestock, pets such as cats and dogs, and rats.”
The leptospira are commonly contracted from stagnant bodies of water contaminated by the urine of infected animals. That’s why the disease is prevalent during the rainy season, the time when flooding occurs most often. How does one get it? According to the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID), “The leptospirosis bacteria enter the human body through cuts and cracks on the skin, or through membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth.”
Asked whether a person needs to have a wound to be susceptible to leptospirosis, Dr. Felipe answers, “Not necessarily.” Besides other ways of transmission (for instance, ingestion), continued exposure to contaminated waters significantly increases the risk of contracting leptospirosis.
The guideline of PSMID requires patients to see a doctor immediately if they have fever that persists for two or more days; are constantly exposed to flood waters (and possibly contaminated waters) whether or not they have cuts or wounds; and have at least two of the following symptoms:
· Myalgia (muscle pain)
· Calf tenderness
· Conjunctival suffusion (red eyes)
· Abdominal pain
· Jaundice (yellowish discoloration of skin and eyes)
· Oliguria (decreasing amount of urine)
The earliest occurring symptoms, says Dr. Felipe, are fever and muscle pains, which “are usually centered on the back or the leg area, but can be anywhere.” These symptoms may be early, but they’re too common to be considered tell-tale signs. So, if you come down with a fever after being exposed to flood waters, stagnant water, or any possible source of leptospira, it’s best to get yourself checked ASAP.