St. Maarten Government issues leptospirosis advisory

POSTED: 06/20/12 12:13 PM

St. Maarten – Section General Public Health (SGPH) says leptospirosis zoonosis, is an infectious disease caused by a type of bacteria called spirochete. Leptospirosis can be transmitted by many animals such as rats, skunks, mice, raccoons, and other vermin.

Leptospirosis is transmitted through contact with infected soil or water. The soil or water is contaminated with the waste products of an infected feral or domestic animal. Those at high risk are veterinarians, pet shop owners, sewage workers, and farm employees, slaughterhouse workers, and people hiking and camping outdoors.

People can contract the disease by either ingesting contaminated food or water or by broken skin and mucous membrane (eyes, nose, sinuses, and mouth) contact with the contaminated water or soil. Section General Public Health is therefore advising owners of households and businesses to keep their premises clean. Un-kept premises can be a breeding ground for bacteria from infected animals. Rodents require a source of food and water and a place to live. Carelessness can lead to increased populations of pest. Open garbage cans and food left out, derelict buildings, abandoned cars, and dense bush can attract rodents.

Leptospirosis occurs worldwide, but it is most commonly acquired in the tropics. Leptospirosis symptoms begin from two to 25 days after initial direct exposure to the urine or tissue of an infected animal. The illness goes through two phases. The first phase includes flu-like symptoms that include headaches, muscle aches, eye pain, chills and fever. After the fifth or ninth day, symptoms seem to improve. The second phase entails initial symptoms recurring after a few days of feeling better, which includes fever and aching with stiffness of the neck. Some patients develop serious inflammation of the nerves to the eyes, brain, spinal column, or other nerves.  Right upper area abdominal pain may occur. Less common symptoms relate to disease of the liver, lungs, kidneys, and heart.

Treatment of leptospirosis must be done by a physician and involves high doses of antibiotics.

For further information you should consult with your family physician or call SGPH at telephone number: 542-3553, 542-2078.

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