Editorial: Leptospirosis warning

IT'S one of those diseases that may or may not kill you, but the risk is there and no one knows who will die or who will not. What the kind of those who did not survive know is that death comes fast.

Thus, there is all the reason to heed the warning of the Davao City Health Office (CHO) in these times of flooding to make sure you don't go around wading through floodwaters if you have sores or wounds on your feet and legs. It can also infect through mucous membrane or the infected waters or mud getting in contact with your eyes, nose, sinuses, and mouth. Thus it is also recommended to wear rubber boots if you need to wade, and to take prophylactic medicine, most specifically doxycycline. Doxycycline, while an antibiotic and requires a doctor's prescription to avail of from the drugstore can be availed of for free at the CHO.

While wading in flood is the most warned about, the disease can also be acquired through contact with wet soil or mud contaminated with the urine of the infected animal, most of the time rats and mice, but also includes cows, pigs, and dogs.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that when not treated can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death. Its symptoms can easily be mistaken to be just fever or flu. Symptoms include very high temperature or a shivery feeling, a headache, aching muscles and joints, red eyes, and loss of appetite.

Thus, if you feel sick after wading through floodwaters or mud, better have yourself checked by a physician. Remember, incubation period of the bacteria is between 7-10 days. Meaning, you may not feel the symptoms right after wading.

This fever or flu-like symptoms can worsen and require emergency medical treatment when you have the following symptoms: jaundice or yellow skin and eyes, swollen ankles, feet or hands, chest pain, shortness of breath, and coughing up blood. But we hope you will not be waiting for their heightened symptoms before seeking professional help. As stated, leptospirosis can lead to death quickly.

Sometimes, a patient may not even show any symptoms. That is why the CHO recommends prophylactic medicine or doxycycline but only as prescribed by a physician because it is not for everybody. For one, pregnant women should not take this medicine.

The Department of Health also says, early recognition and treatment within 2 days of illness prevents complications of leptospirosis, so early consultation is advised.

Bottomline, prevention is better than cure. Don't wade in floodwaters or mud when you have open wounds. Don't splatter floodwaters on yourself or other people to avoid ingesting it or getting it through the soft tissues of your body, like the eyes and the mouth. And when a few days after wading through floodwaters and you feel sick, consult a doctor immediately. Do not wait for the symptoms to worsen, and most especially, do not self-medicate.
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