DOH reports 1,227 leptospirosis cases so far in Metro Manila

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has recorded 1,227 leptospirosis cases in Metro Manila from January to August 2018. 

This is a 358% increase from the 268 recorded cases during the same period in 2017, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Wednesday, August 22. 

Nationwide, DOH recorded a 105% increase in cases: 2,229 cases as of August 2018, as compared to the 1,085 cases during the same period in 2017. Duque said 50% of the burden of leptospirosis in the Philippines was from Metro Manila.

Earlier in July, DOH declared a leptospirosis outbreak in several cities in the National Capital Region. The department said it continues to monitor areas where there is a clustering of several cases. (FAST FACTS: What is leptospirosis?

Duque said the spike in cases was "very unfortunate" considering leptospirosis is a preventable disease. 

According to the World Health Organization, leptospirosis is a bacterial disease usually contracted by direct contact "with the urine of infected animals or with a urine-contaminated environment."

Why the increase? The most common way humans contract leptospirosis is through cuts and abrasions on the skin. It can also be acquired when infected animal urine gets in contact with the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Individuals usually contract leptospirosis by wading in contaminated flood water. During rainy season, the risk of contracting waterborne diseases is much greater. 

Duque said the main factors that contributed to the rise in leptospirosis cases were inefficient garbage collection and weak flood control interventions. He also said community awareness of the disease and its effects was low "despite the DOH's nonstop reminders."

"People still take the risk, children playing in floodwaters still smiling not knowing the water underneath is deadly," Duque said.

He added: "A lot of the success will come about when the community's residents themselves cooperate. Huwag pasaway. (Don't be stubborn)."

What needs to be done? Duque called on local government units (LGUs) to ramp up garbage collection and improve their flood programs.

He said LGUs should continue information and education drives to make sure residents are aware of the dangers of leptospirosis and how to treat it.

"Leptospirosis can be an indicator of how well the government is getting its act together to address a serious illness," Duque said.

The health chief also urged those with symptoms of the disease to go to the nearest health facility for proper treatment. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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