by: Ronaldo V. Mendoza, MD, MBA in Health
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease most commonly found in tropical countries like the Philippines. It is mainly transmitted by infected RATS through contact with an infected soil or water contaminated by their waste products (urine and stool).
Most of the time, people can get this infection through ingestion of contaminated food/water or through direct contact by means of an open wound in the legs and feet. On rare occasions, mucous membrane contact through the eyes or mouth causes infection. The symptoms typically begin from 2 to 25 days after infection and starts with typical FLU-like symptoms including generalized body weakness, fever/chills and muscle pains. The late stage of the disease will result into more serious complications such as yellowish discoloration of the skin, abdominal pain and kidney failure requiring hemodialysis.
Treatment involves high dose of Doxycycline and is very effective if given in the early stage of the illness. Leptospirosis can be FATAL for those with severe liver and kidney complications and may require ICU care and Hemodialysis. Mortality rate ranges from 5% to 40% depending on the severity of multiple organ problems and general well-being of patient prior to being ill. Prophylaxis can be given for those waded in flooded areas. Doxycycline 100mg; 2 capsules daily as Single Dose for those with intact skin and extended for 3 days for those with open wound (Legs/Feet) and those who ingested flood water. Vaccination for leptospirosis is available but is given annually. Travelers to endemic areas need to take 200mg Doxycycline every week before and during the time period of exposure.
Pets (especially Dogs, less commonly Cats) can also be infected with leptospirosis especially if they are exposed to soil. They will exhibit the same symptoms and must be brought to the veterinarian immediately for evaluation.