Leptospirosis outbreak confirmed

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Department of Health yesterday reported that there is an outbreak of leptospirosis, a usually rare bacterial infection, in three barangays in Marikina and expects an upsurge of cases of the disease in Metro Manila and the regions of Rizal and the Calabarzon following the flooding brought by tropical storm “Ondoy.”

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the infectious disease is spreading rapidly in Marikina, with Tumana, Concepcion, and Malanday as the epicenter communities.

“It’s an outbreak there because in 2008, Marikina had zero cases.We expect a lot more cases in Rizal (province) and Calabarzon,” he said, citing areas where hospital data is still coming in and where stagnating floodwaters remain in heavily populated communities.

Duque said the DoH will begin distributing free doxycycline antibiotic drugs as a prophylactic, or means of prevention in Marikina.

He noted that the disease has afflicted more people in Metro Manila in the last two weeks than it typically does in an entire year, attributing the “outbreak” to large numbers of people wading in floodwaters carrying the bacteria.

In Metro Manila alone, the DoH has recorded 1,027 leptospirosis patients, with 89 deaths, for a high 8.6 percent mortality rate.

The health chief added that one million people in the Calabarzon region are at risk of exposure to the bacteria, while 700,000 people are vulnerable in Metro Manila.

Leptospirosis is spread through animal urine mixed in with floodwater entering openings in human skin. It usually takes two weeks after infection to manifest flu-like symptoms. If not diagnosed early enough, it can lead to meningitis, liver damage and death. Nearly one in ten afflicted so far has died, an extremely high mortality rate for any disease.

Duque said the best prevention is to stay out of polluted floodwaters. However, he admitted that many people have to walk in floodwater to return to their homes or simply to get from one place to another.

Many places remain under water since typhoon “Ondoy” struck and submerged large parts of Metro Manila and outlying areas.

Dengue threat

Another dreaded disease – dengue – also threatens residents in still flooded areas.

According to Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy of the Department of Health, possibilities are high of an outbreak of dengue in areas which are still submerged in floodwater dengue-carrying mosquitoes can easily breed.

Speaking in a weekly media forum at the Hotel Rembrandt in Quezon City, Lee Suy said that they expect to start encountering dengue cases in two weeks’ time considering the continued presence of floodwater which are ideal breeding sites for mosquitoes.

Besides, the rainy season is the best time for mosquitoes to reproduce.

“Masaya na sana kami dahil September na ay mababa pa rin ang kaso ng dengue, kaya lang bigla naman tayong nagkaroon ng ganitong problema,” the DoH official said referring to the flooding in several areas in the province of Rizal and the cities of Marikina and Pasig.