The San Juan Daily Star
Several suspected cases of leptospirosis are under investigation
By The Star Staff
Given the floods caused by the recent passage of Hurricane Fiona on the island, the Department of Health has issued an alert on leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals.
The disease can affect anyone who comes into contact with water contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Without treatment, leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.
“Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can cause serious health conditions in the kidneys, liver, meningitis, difficulty breathing, and bleeding. It is a disease that could be fatal,” Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López said Monday. “So last week, we issued a notice calling on the public to know how to prevent it, specifically to stay away from contaminated water.”
On Sept. 19, the department shared a notice about the disease with health facilities, all hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers, 330 centers, dialysis clinics, and the guide for managing patient cases related to the disease. The guide is available through the portal https://www.salud.gov.pr/leptospirosis.
Currently, seven suspected cases have been identified and are under investigation. Health professionals took samples from all patients, and the results are pending. Since the disease can be fatal, all patients are taking antibiotics. The cases involve four males and three females between the ages of 10 and 69 years. The affected individuals are from the Bayamón, San Juan metro, Ponce, Caguas and Mayagüez regions.
The incubation period for leptospirosis is two to 30 days; most cases of the illness occur five to 14 days after exposure. The first symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, muscle aches, red eyes, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), rash and cough.
The following are some recommendations to avoid becoming infected with leptospirosis.
* First, do not walk, swim, bathe, submerge your head or swallow flood water or any body of water that may be contaminated with animal urine or flood runoff.
* Second, individuals should cover skin cuts with waterproof bandages, Band-Aids, or other material that does not allow water to enter.
* Third, anyone dealing with debris should wear long-sleeved clothing, cover most of the skin, and wear gloves, safety glasses, and closed shoes. Individuals should not walk outside barefoot. Everyone must wear waterproof protective clothing, gloves, closed shoes, or boots near water or wet ground that may be contaminated. The public should not use flood water or water bodies to clean the house or wash clothes. Food and garbage must be kept in closed containers.
* If you feel ill and have the aforementioned symptoms you should seek medical evaluation immediately. Early detection saves lives.
* Finally, a call is made for anyone with leptospirosis symptoms to contact their health professional or visit an emergency room immediately.
“Treatment against the disease is more effective when started as soon as possible,” the Health secretary said.
For information, visit the Department of Health page https://www.salud.gov.pr/ or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page https://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/es/los-huracanes- y-la-leptospirosis.html.