CHIANG RAI – As monsoon season arrives in Northern Thailand health officials are warning Thai and tourists about the dangers of walking barefoot through puddles to avoid leptospirosis – a bacteria commonly found in all kinds of animal urine – rats, dogs, cats, cows and other mammals – that has already killed eight people this year.
Leptospirosis which is also known as Weil’s disease is found throughout Southeast Asia.
Leptospirosis is spread through water, entering the bloodstream via open wounds or scratches, prolonged exposure or just consuming infected water or food.
Symptoms range from muscle pains to coughing blood and liver failure causing yellow eyes and skin.
Other symptoms include an inability to urinate and exhaustion.
Government epidemiologists report that of the 622 cases of leptospirosis reported this year, eight have been fatal. Most were farmers in rural areas.
Symptoms of a Leptospirosis infection can include: high fever, headaches, chills, muscle aches (especially thighs and calves), headaches, vomiting, diarrhea and red eyes, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More severe symptoms may include meningitis, kidney failure leading to inability to urinate, liver failure causing yellow eyes and skin, exhaustion, coughing blood and shock.
Anyone exhibiting these symptoms should immediately seek medical attention. Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics, which should be prescribed as early as possible.
The illness can last anywhere from a few days to three weeks or longer. Without treatment, however, recovery may take months.
For more information, call the Disease Control Department hotline at 1422. Limited service is available in English.
The disease killed British double Olympic gold medal winning rower Andy Holmes, who is believed to have caught the disease from contact with dirty river water, in 2010.
By Geoff Thomas