Last week’s back-to-back tropical storms and incessant heavy rains brought by the southwest monsoon or “habagat” have left about 40 towns and cities in Ilocos Region, Central and Southern Luzon, and Metro Manila still grappling with floods, not to mention the threat of communicable as well as potentially deadly diseases as result of stagnant water and an overall deterioration in the environment.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), those in the affected areas as well as evacuation centers should watch out for cases of leptospirosis (a disease caused by rat urine), dengue (caused by any of four dengue viruses spread by mosquitoes) as well as diarrhea.
This is why the DOH has directed both public and private hospitals to immediately report every confirmed cases of these diseases so the occurrence of an outbreak could be prevented.
Based on the report from the DOH-National Epidemiology Center, there are at least 45,000 dengue cases, while at least 500 leptospirosis cases have been reported so far. These figures have not yet included those cases that are expected to be reported after last week’s flooding and devastation.
Infected rat urine
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that infects people through direct contact with the urine of infected rats or in an environment contaminated with infected rat urine. The bacteria enter the body through cuts or abrasions on the skin, or through the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and eyes.
This is why wading or swimming in floods is not a good idea as the water may already be contaminated.
Leptospirosis can be difficult to diagnose in its mild early stages, as it shares symptoms with other more common infections. However, be on the lookout or immediately bring the person to the hospital if the following symptoms are observed: high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, chills, redness of the eyes, abdominal pain, jaundice, hemorrhages in the skin and mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhea and rash.
One should remember that a diagnosis of leptospirosis can be confirmed by running a series of blood and urine tests to detect the presence of the leptospira bacteria in his/her blood or urine.
Another big worry for authorities is the possibility of large-scale mosquito breeding once the floodwater recedes and leave behind pools of stagnant water.
The Aedes mosquito—the main carrier of dengue virus—prefers to breed in clean, stagnant water, easily found in in the house and its surroundings.
Many individuals may experience no signs or symptoms during a mild case or early stages of dengue fever.
While most people recover within a week or so, there will be cases wherein symptoms would worsen and become life-threatening. Blood vessels often become damaged and leaky, and the number of clot-forming cells in one’s bloodstream falls causing bleeding from the nose and mouth, severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, bleeding under the skin, and even problems with lungs, liver and heart.
Although infectious and other potentially deadly diseases are a frightening prospect, widespread outbreaks after floods may be effectively prevented if everyone is vigilant.
Apart from immediately reporting cases of infection, the family and the rest of the community must take some preventive measures like consuming only bottled or boiled water; keeping individual hygiene; safely storing and consuming food; and more importantly, avoiding self-medication when symptoms of diarrhea disease or other diseases occur.