DOH alarmed by 40% hike in Cordillera’s lepto cases

BAGUIO CITY — A total of 28 leptospirosis cases were recorded in the Cordillera Region from January to June 2018, showing a 40 percent increase compared to the 20 cases during the same period last year.

Geeny Austria, nurse at the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) of the Department of Health-Cordillera, told the Philippine News Agency in an interview on Thursday that out of 28 reported cases in the region, Benguet recorded seven cases which is 25 percent of the total; Kalinga has five cases or 17.9 percent; Apayao and Ifugao both have three cases corresponding to 10.7 percent each, as monitored by the Disease Reporting Units (DRUs) in the provinces.

Baguio City and Mountain province reported one case each, corresponding to 3.6 percent.

Cases involving patients from non-Cordillera provinces were also recorded and attended to in different hospitals in the region.

Austria said there were eight non-Cordillera patients which correspond to 28.6 percent.

One death was recorded in Baguio City, whom Austria explained, was also diagnosed of dengue.

Of the 28 cases, 22 were males, she said, adding that the victims were aged 12 to 58 years old and most of them are construction workers.

Austria said leptospirosis is caused by bacteria coming from rats and any four-legged animals like livestock and dogs.

The Leptospira bacteria, she explained, is most commonly spread via water contaminated with urine from infected animals, but contaminated food or soil can also act as vehicles for the disease.

An infected person manifests a mild flu-like illness which may progress to serious symptoms like jaundice, respiratory distress, meningitis and internal bleeding that affects the kidney and the liver, resulting in multi-organ failure and eventually, death, if not given immediate medical attention.

“Rainy season is inevitable in the region so we encourage the public to be pro-active. If they feel like there is a need for them to be checked, please do so,” she said.

Austria reiterated that death in cases of leptospirosis is high if the patient is diagnosed at a late stage of infection.

“Normally, signs and symptoms would manifest between 3 to 14 days, and we have monitored that during the rainy season, the cases of leptospirosis increase,” she said.

Blood samples are taken from suspected cases which are brought to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) for confirmation of the infection. Austria, however, clarified that suspected patients are further observed and monitored to assure their health and wellness.

The nurse explained that the disease is transmitted through skin contact especially if abraded and the person waded in flood waters; accidental immersion or occupational abrasion, direct contact with the urine of the infected animal.

To prevent leptospirosis, she urged the public, especially parents to prevent their children from swimming or wading in potentially contaminated water.

She also advised the use of proper personal protection like boots and gloves especially for construction workers, draining of potentially contaminated water and control of rats in the household by using traps or other means of vermin control.

Austria also emphasized that they are not just relying on doctors’ diagnosis but also use their criteria. “We have monitored that lately there are some cases where the patient manifests the symptoms of leptospirosis, but was found to be negative of the infection. The patient might have been taking anti-biotics to control the infection,” Austria said.