The Dominican Republic Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported (computer translated) updates on the situation with two infectious diseases–cholera and leptospirosis.

Health officials report that in 2016 to date, the country has seen 1,097 cholera cases, which included 23 deaths (case fatality rate of 2.1 percent). The number of cases reported this year is about twice the number of cases reported in the two previous years.

Dominican Republic Image/onestopmap
Dominican Republic

The health ministry says due to the rainy season, they have intensified surveillance and prevention of cholera.

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It has a short incubation period, ranging between two hours and five days.

The bacterium produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given. Vomiting also occurs in most patients.

It affects both children and adults and can kill within hours. Person-to-person transmission is not common.

Among people who develop symptoms, about 80-90% of episodes are of mild or moderate severity and are difficult to distinguish clinically from other types of acute diarrhea. Less than 20% of ill persons develop acute watery diarrhea with moderate or severe dehydration.

Concerning leptospirosis, the health ministry reports 473 human cases year-to-date, of which 37 deaths resulted. Health officials say that nearly all the cases (97%) were seen in male patients.

Leptospirosis is caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Leptospira interrogans, is often referred to as “rat fever” due to the principal role rats play in spreading the disease (scientists refer this type of animal as a reservoir host).  Other animals can also be important reservoirs of the disease.

These animals can spread the disease in their urine, contaminating water, soil, or food.  People who live in close contact with domestic animals or wildlife are at higher risk for getting the disease.

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People become infected by coming into contact with contaminated urine, water, food, or soil through breaks in the skin, eyes, mouth, or nose. Outbreaks of leptospirosis are usually caused by exposure to contaminated water, such as floodwaters. Person to person transmission is rare. Infected individuals initially experience fever, severe headache and muscle aches, abdominal pain, and occasionally a skin rash.  Patients in the later stages of disease can suffer from jaundice, kidney failure, bleeding from the mouth or nose, bloody urine and can be fatal, especially without proper treatment.