Monday, June 27, 2011

Floods not the only problem but Leptospirosis also

In recent weeks, different parts of the country experienced floods. It may be safe to say that sadly, floods are a common sight in Manila especially when there is rain....ordinary rain...not just during typhoons.

I was a witness to this in my days in UP Manila. When it really rains, flood waters start to form and establishments in Taft become "floating" buildings. Then one will see "padyak" or pedicab drivers braving the floods to take advantage of the chance to earn higher take home cash for that day. One will also observe people making a make-shift "bridge" for people to cross charging a good amount of money.

Waters may even reach knee-high but both pedicab drivers and people who put make-shift "bridges" ignore the possible free Leptospirosis that may come with their "jobs".

Leptospira Interrogans Is a Spiral-Shaped Bacteria Seen on a Membrane Filter Photographic Poster Print by Tina Carvalho, 18x24
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a bacteria affecting humans and animals. The organism enters the body when mucous membranes or abraded skin come in contact with water contaminated with the urine of infected animals like rats. Wading in contaminated flood waters is one way of getting the infection. It causes symptoms that may be similar to flu or other infectious diseases causing fever and muscle aches. Jaundice (yellow eyes and skin) may be observed in severe cases from liver failure. Kidney damage and even death is a possibility.

One may not know right away that he or she has leptospirosis. It may take two days to four weeks before symptoms develop.

According to the Department of Health Philippines (DOH), there are already 454 leptospirosis cases from January to May 21, 2011 (higher by almost 75% than the figure during same period last year) with 32 deaths already (compared to 8 from the same period last year).

Most affected regions...NCR? Nope. It's the Western Visayan region followed by Bicol then Central Luzon. These are areas greatly affected by recent typhoons. But this does not mean that only these areas should be careful. Urban residents are actually also at increased risk what with our lack of discipline in proper garbage disposal (thus inviting the rats to these areas).

Apparently, many people are not still aware of the possibility of getting Leptospirosis when wading thru floods. This might explain why the number of cases is high.

Therefore my advice is: Do not dare wade in flood waters. Prevention is better than cure as they say. Health is better than "wealth". "Padyaks", for the sake of your families - do not drive your pedicabs in the flood. You would not want your earnings to disappear quickly because of the expense of treatment.

If a flood is expected and one cannot avoid being exposed to it, then arm yourself with protective footwear like high boots and protective clothing.

Drug for prophylaxis is available for those adults at high risk of exposure known as Doxycycline which is not intended for long term use

If you have a history of wading through flood waters and you have fever, headache and muscle aches, consult your doctor right away. It may be some other disease. But it may also be Leptospirosis.

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