Leptospirosis is an infection caused by spiral-shaped bacteria called leptospira interrogans. Because these bacteria multiply in the kidneys of infected animals such rodents, dogs and other mammals, they are shed in the urine. The disease comes in different names like “rice-field fever” and “swine herder’s disease”, depending on where or how they are transmitted.
Infected humans may develop mild or acute symptoms, depending on the severity of the infection. About 90% of all the cases tend to yield only mild symptoms, lasting for 5 to 7 days. It’s possible for the infected individuals to recover from the disease spontaneously without medical intervention. On the other hand, it is said that about 10% of the cases involve more serious symptoms about 3 days after experiencing the set of mild symptoms. Severe cases usually involve the infection of the brain tissue or its meninges (membranes), failure of the liver, kidneys and lungs, and even death if left untreated.
Some of the initial symptoms of leptospirosis surface suddenly 7 to 14 days after being exposed to leptospira interrogans. Mild symptoms, the ones experienced by 90% of infected individuals, include high fever (38 to 40°C), chills, nausea and vomiting, headaches, loss of appetite, muscle pain, conjunctivitis (eye redness and irritation), cough and short-lived rash.
As earlier mentioned, it is possible for someone afflicted with the disease to recover spontaneously from it. Some doctors choose to treat their patients with antibiotics that are effective against those spiral-shaped bacteria behind the infection. Generally, the prognosis of leptospirosis is good provided that the symptoms do not progress to more severe ones.
More severe symptoms may show up about 3 days after all of the mild symptoms have dissipated. This is something that happens to 10% of all cases only. These symptoms tend to vary, depending on which vital organ is affected.
For instance, rapid and irregular heart beat may be experienced if the individual’s heart is affected. Edema or swelling of the hands and feet may be observed if the infection has reached the kidneys. With the lungs affected, the sufferer may experience shortness of breath and tiredness. Jaundice and swelling in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen happen when the liver is affected. It is also possible for the brain tissue or its meninges to be infected. As the symptoms experienced by the infected person increase, the prognosis tends to get poorer.
Steering clear of leptospirosis is easy with just a few preventive measures. Especially during the rainy season, refrain from stepping in puddles of water as it might be contaminated with the bacteria responsible for the disease. This is especially true if you had just undergone a pedicure or you have a scratch or an abrasion on your feet. Wearing rain boots is an effective way to ward off the disease. Always remember to thoroughly wash your feet with soap and water after coming into contact with water that may be contaminated.