Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by many animals, most commonly rats and other rodents and vermin. Its severe cases can be highly fatal.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Leptospirosis is caused by Leptospira bacteria. It is most commonly transmitted through direct contact with urine, blood, or tissue of an infected animal. Direct contact commonly occurs when broken skin, open wounds, or the lining of the eyes, nose, sinuses, and mouth come in contact with infected material; in ordinary circumstances, this usually happens through contact with infected water (e.g. wading in floodwater) or soil. This also means that infection can occur even if a person has no cuts or wounds, contrary to popular belief. Person-to-person transmission is possible, but rare. The bacteria can incubate for as long as 28 days, which means symptoms can take as long as one month after contact with infected material or environment to manifest.

• Fever • Muscle pain, especially pain in the calves/ legs • Headache • Chills • Reddish eyes • Severe cases can result to damage to the liver, kidneys and brain which may manifest as yellowish skin and/or eyes, dark-colored urine and chalk-colored stools, and low urine output. • Other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cough, and rashes may be present.

• Patients suspected of having leptospirosis (i.e. has symptoms PLUS history of exposure to infected material or environment such as wading through floodwater) must be immediately seen by a physician for antibiotic treatment and other measures, and to prevent the development of worse and possibly fatal symptoms.

• Avoid swimming or wading in potentially contaminated water (e.g. floodwater). • If contact is unavoidable (e.g. during typhoons or for work), use proper protection like boots and gloves. After exposure, wash the hands, feet, and other exposed areas thoroughly with soap and water. • After any potential exposure, it is advisable to take post-exposure prophylaxis with doxycycline. Although this needs a doctor's prescription, it is easily accessible in pharmacies and commonly requires only one dose. • Drain potentially contaminated water when possible. • Control rodents in the household by using rat traps or rat poison and maintaining cleanliness in the house.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024