Improve people’s access to health services to fight leptospirosis, health group says

Aug. 04, 2008

DAVAO CITY – A non government health organization said improved sanitation facilities and better access to health services among the people will reduce the risk of leptospirosis once heavy rains set in again.

Dr. Lynn Redoble, executive director of the Community Based Health Services Incorporated (CBHS), said efficient sewerage and garbage collection system would greatly decrease cases of leptospirosis while better access to health care and sanitation could mean early detection of the disease.

Leptospirosis is defined as a bacterial disease caused by the contact of broken skin with water contaminated with the urine or tissue of infected animals, which may include cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents, and wild animals, according to the United States Center for Disease Control.

The Department of Health (DoH) monitored 21 cases of leptospirosis in the city in the first half of the year, which more than double the 10 recorded cases in the entire year of 2007. Dr. Rogelio Peera, a DoH medical specialist, confirmed one death caused by leptospirosis although he said that deaths from leptospirosis are very rare.

Patients who are sick of the disease usually die from complications, such as renal failure, he explained.

He also said that health authorities can only count few cases that reach the hospitals. City hospitals are required to report a patient diagnosed with leptospirosis within a week.

Peera said more than half of the cases of leptospirosis in the region were reported to have come from Davao city. He explained though, that six of the 10 hospitals that DoH monitors are in the city, which might have accounted for the high number of cases here.

Redoble said the poor are most vulnerable to the disease. “Slum areas are frequently flooded because there is no proper garbage collection, she said. Sewers are usually clogged and the residents are forced to wade in flood waters.”

When the poor get sick, they cannot afford to go to the doctor for check up, she said. She also said the poor will be worse off if the planned privatization of the Davao Medical Center, the region’s largest public hospital, will push through.

Only laboratory tests can accurately tell if a patient has contracted the disease or not. But the poor could not afford more medical procedures, so, oftentimes these are not detected, Redoble said.

Leptospirosis has a wide array of symptoms which make it possible for most people to dismiss it as flu. DoH said the symptoms for leptospirosis and flue are similar–high fever, chills, vomiting, calf pains and muscle aches.

Redoble said children have an increased risk for the disease because they like to play in the mud and murky flood waters.

Advanced symptoms of leptospirosis include jaundice and renal failure, or inability to urinate. Redoble said that at its advanced stage, the disease could easily lead to the collapse of major organs such as kidney liver and lungs and eventually, death. (CJ Kuizon/

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