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The Surge of Leptospirosis

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Leptospirosis cases and deaths rose early this year as an aftermath of flood brought by typhoon Sendong in Region 10 on December 17, 2011. In the first week of January 2012, the Department of Health Center for Health Development (CHD) in Northern Mindanao reported a total of 599 suspected cases and 16 deaths in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, giving a case fatality rate of 4.2 percent.

 

In August, another surge in leptospirosis cases occurred due to the massive flooding in many areas of Luzon, including Metro Manila, resulting from the heavy and continuous southwest monsoon (Habagat) rains. The DOH conducted a quick count for admissions of Leptospirosis in 20 Metro Manila hospitals already noted 783 cases and 34 deaths. Half were recorded in San Lazaro Hospital. By August 18, the number of leptospirosis cases in the country reached 2,471, with 129 deaths. This is 62.35 percent higher compared to the 1,522 cases recorded during the same period last year.

 

Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona announced that persons in areas affected by the Habagat rains and diagnosed with leptospirosis shall be automatically covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), including nonmembers. A case rate of P 11,000 shall be paid for moderate leptospirosis, while severe leptospirosis shall be reimbursed fee for service.

 

A controversial news on leptospirosis was announced by President Benigno S. Aquino III during one of his relief operation visits on August 8. He said an unidentified pharmaceutical company that allegedly raised the price of its leptospirosis medicine, doxycycline, by up to 750 percent. Amid the heavy flooding in many parts of Luzon. The company was allegedly selling its leptospirosis medication between P50-75 from its previous price of P10.

 

Doxycycline is an antibiotic that is currently recommended to prevent leptospirosis among those with increased risk of exposure. However, doxycycline does not totally protect against leptosirosis. Those who will develop fever even after taking doxycycline should go to their doctor for examination. Moreover, doxycyclin is NOT recommended for pregnant women and children below eight years of age.

 

Ona, for his part, appealed to drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies throughout to country to keep, if not reduce, the prices of drugs and medicines, particularly antibiotics at affordable or reduced prices.

 

Leptospirosis is caused by leptospira bacteria found in both wild and domestic animals, including rats, dogs, cattle, pigs, horses and insectivores (carnivorous mammals that survive by eating small insects). Rats shed large amounts of leptospires in their urine, and human transmission occurs through contact of the skin and mucous membranes with urine-contaminated water, damp soil, vegetation or mud. It takes about 10 days before manifestations appear, though in some cases it can take as little as two days or as many as 30 after exposure.

 

The common signs and symptoms of early-stage leptospirosis include high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, chills, redness in the eyes, abdominal pain, jaundice, haemorrhages in skin and mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhea and rashes. When patients are not managed, the kidneys, lungs and intestinal tract can be affected, causing decreased urination, coughing out of blood, breathlessness and intestinal haemorrhage.

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