Poor sanitation and garbage disposal in Bangkok’s flood-hit communities could result in an outbreak of leptospirosis, a health expert has warned.
Sumet Ongwandee of the Disease Control Department (DCD) said people should take precautions against leptospirosis and wear protective gear if they want to return home after the waters recede.
“The waterborne disease can be hazardous to people,” he said.
Leptospirosis can be transmitted to both humans and animals by direct contact with the urine of infected rodents in contaminated flood water.
The disease gets into the body through cuts and wounds as well as the eyes, nose and mouth, Dr Sumet told the Bangkok Post.
Symptoms are a high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, chills, redness of the eyes, abdominal pain, jaundice, skin haemorrhages, vomiting, diarrhoea and a rash. Severe cases can be fatal if not treated immediately, he said.
Leptospirosis is very worrying as the floodwater has hit crowded urban communities in the capital.
“So garbage disposal management is needed, for it is the first measure that will help control rodents infected with the bacteria from spreading the disease to people,” he said.
Dr Sumet said people should carefully protect themselves by wearing rubber boots, gloves and masks when wading through contaminated floodwater and dispose of garbage to help prevent themselves and others from catching the waterborne disease.
Apart from Bangkok’s flood-hit communities, health authorities are speeding up monitoring for leptospirosis in 46 flood-hit provinces nationwide.
Surveillance teams of the Bureau of Epidemiology found a leptospirosis case in Nakhon Sawan after the floodwaters receded there.
Another case with similar symptoms to leptospirosis was reported on Nov 18 in Ayutthaya’s Pachi district and is still under investigation, the bureau said.
Bangkok has in the past experienced three leptospirosis outbreaks after flooding. The last outbreak in the capital was reported in 1964, said Wirongrong Jirakul, of Mahidol University’s faculty of tropical medicine.
Dr Wirongrong said major outbreaks in the country were reported between 1997 and 1999. Up to 15,000 cases and 400 deaths were reported.
In Thailand, an estimated 2,000-3,000 people are infected with leptospirosis every year.
The disease is endemic in the Northeast where farmers work in fields and rice paddies without proper protection. Leptospirosis cases usually peak during the monsoon season.
(Source: Bangkok Post, Expert warns of leptospirosis, 23/11/2011, Apiradee Treerutkuarkul, link)