Guam has had three confirmed cases of leptospirosis – one in late July and two in August – a fourth case is still pending lab results, according to a Department of Public Health and Social Services press release.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial, zoonotic infection transmitted from animals to humans by infected urine through the environment. It can be fatal.
Infection can occur through breaks in the skin or through the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth.
Health officials said evidence suggests the contamination occurs during times of heavy rain and flooding. “… Leptospirosis cases will seek medical care one to three weeks after storms,” according to the press release. Public Health officials are reminding clinics to report cases.
Officials said recent heavy rain and storm-like weather is a likely reason for these new leptospirosis cases. Historically, leptospirosis infections on Guam occurs mainly in people who have been hiking and/or swimming in streams and rivers in the southern part of the island.
“The risk of acquiring leptospirosis can be greatly reduced by not swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine, or eliminating contact with potentially infected animals. Protective clothing or footwear should be worn by those exposed to contaminated soil or water,” said Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Ann Pobutsky.
Symptoms include high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea and rash and their poor specificity can be mistaken for other diseases.
Without treatment, the disease can lead to serious complications (e.g. kidney and liver failure) and even death, according to the press release. It is crucial for people who feel sick with a fever to quickly consult a doctor. Early antibiotic treatment is a major determinant of rapid recovery and prevents most of the severe complications and fatalities. mbj