The number of leptospirosis cases in the northern province of Pangasinan are down 17 percent this year; however, health officials do caution the public not to get complacent.

Leptospirosis/Philippines DOH Facebook page
Leptospirosis/Philippines DOH Facebook page

Dr. Anna Maria Teresa de Guzman, provincial health officer (PHO), said their office has, so far, recorded 19 cases of leptospirosis from January 1 to July 4 this year which is 17 percent lower than the 23 cases noted from same period last year.

The PHO also advised the public to avoid wading in floodwaters but if not possible, one has to wear a protective gear like boots to protect themselves from contaminated water.

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.

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.