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Waded through rainwaters? Pop an antibiotic to prevent leptospirosis.

Waded through rainwaters? Pop an antibiotic to prevent leptospirosis.

  • August 25, 2018

Leptospirosis is a rare bacterial infection that can pass from animals to humans. During heavy rainfall and flooding, transmission through contaminated environment is the biggest risk factor for the spread of leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is caused by corkscrew-shaped bacteria called Leptospira. Transmission of this infection occurs when an open wound is exposed to water/soil contaminated with these bacteria or if anyone has swallowed contaminated water/food. Animals that transmit leptospirosis to humans mostly include rats, mice, dogs, cattle and swine.

However, the infection does not spread from one person to another. Those people who are travelling to tropical areas have greater risk of contracting the disease. Flooding
increases the risk of leptospirosis outbreak. Walking bare foot and wading through contaminated water, outdoor manual workers, living in urban slums where there are inadequate drainage facilities and open drains puts people on a high risk. There are some occupational risk groups like farmers, sewage workers, miners, inland fishermen, etc. who come in contact of the contaminated waters are also at high risk.

The signs and symptoms usually appear suddenly, about 5-14 days after infection. Mild leptospirosis is difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms can resemble those of flu and other common infections. It can range from none to mild such as headaches, muscle pains, and fevers; to severe with bleeding from the lungs or meningitis.

If the infection causes the person to turn yellow, have kidney failure and bleeding, it is then known as Weil’s disease. If it also causes bleeding into the lungs then it is known as
severe pulmonary haemorrhage syndrome. The most common complications of severe leptospirosis are acute kidney injury and acute liver failure with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Variable degrees of thrombocytopenia have been reported with leptospirosis. ARDS, hypotension, eye problems, myocarditis and GI haemorrhage are some other complications.

If you are having any of these symptoms, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics. People with severe infection need to get admitted to the hospital as intravenous antibiotic administration is required. Dialysis may be required for those patients whose kidneys have been affected due to infection.

If you’re pregnant, leptospirosis can affect your baby. So strict monitoring is required to check the infection.

To prevent leptospirosis, it is important to effectively control rat infestation and avoidance of urine contaminated water sources. Wearing protective foot wears in people who work with contaminated water can also be very effective preventive measure. In high risk areas, use of prophylaxis antibiotics like doxycycline can help in preventing leptospirosis. This monsoon, stay safe and don’t ignore any of the mildest symptoms of illness.

About the Author Dr. Rajendra Kesarwani

Dr Rajendra Kesarwani
Chief Intensivist and Chest Physician
SRV Mamata Hospital

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