By Sarwell Meniano

FLOODED. A flooded community in Catarman, Northern Samar in this Nov. 22, 2023 photo. Cases of leptospirosis have increased in Northern Samar weeks after the massive floods last month, the Department of Health reported on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Coast Guard Northern Samar)

TACLOBAN CITY – Cases of leptospirosis have increased in Northern Samar weeks after the massive floods that hit the province last month, the Department of Health (DOH) reported on Thursday.

From just eight cases from January to the first week of December 2023, the number rose to 22 cases in the second week as more patients sought consultation for symptoms of the bacterial disease.

“The number has increased as more people manifested symptoms and sought medical attention in our health facilities as a result of heavy flooding in the province last month,” DOH Eastern Visayas regional information office Jelyn Lopez-Malibago said.

In anticipation of further weather disturbances, DOH earlier prepositioned antibiotics in Northern Samar to combat the illness and sent more drugs in the last week of November as part of the agency’s post-disaster response.

As a result, no one died from leptospirosis in Northern Samar, Malibago said.

Leptospirosis is a disease contracted when floodwaters, vegetation, or moist soil are contaminated with the bacteria called leptospira, commonly spread through the infected urine or feces of rats.

Symptoms include fever, chills, red eyes, jaundice, muscle pain, a severe headache, and little urine production.

In the Eastern Visayas region, the DOH has recorded 113 leptospirosis cases in six provinces with nine deaths. Mortalities were recorded in Tanauan, Leyte, Jipapad, Eastern Samar, Calbayog City, Catbalogan City, Pagsanghan, and Basey in Samar province.

The DOH said leptospirosis can be prevented by avoiding contact with animal urine or body fluids, especially if there are cuts or abrasions of the skin, and by wearing protective clothing or footwear near soil or water that may be contaminated with animal urine.

Other preventive measures include the consumption of boiled water, especially during the rainy season; avoiding swimming or wading in muddy ponds and slowly moving streams, especially those located near farms or stagnant water; and controlling rats and mice around the home on a regular basis. (PNA)