Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects both humans and animals. Humans become infected through direct contact with the urine of infected animals or with a urine-contaminated environment.
The Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department in the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), as part of its responsibility to increase knowledge within society, would like to use this opportunity to inform the Sint Maarten community about this infectious disease.
Outbreaks of leptospirosis have been reported following natural disasters such as flooding. The risk of infection depends on exposure. Some humans have a high risk of exposure because of their occupation, their surrounding and environment, and their lifestyle.
CPS says Sint Maarten post-hurricanes Irma and Maria does not have any cases of leptospirosis, and there have been no reports of the disease in the country.
Measures to prevent transmission of leptospirosis include the following: Wearing protective clothing (boots, gloves, spectacles, aprons, masks); Covering skin lesions with waterproof dressings.
Preventing access to, or giving adequate warning about water bodies known or suspected to be contaminated (pools, ponds, rivers). Try to avoid wading or swimming in potentially contaminated water.
Washing or showering after exposure to urine splashes or contaminated soil or water; Washing and cleaning wounds;
Avoiding or preventing urine splashes and aerosols, avoiding touching ill or dead animals, or assisting animals in giving birth.
Strictly maintaining hygienic measures during care or handling all animals; Where feasible, disinfecting contaminated areas (scrubbing floors in stables, butcheries, abattoirs, etc.); keep your surroundings in and around your home clean to avoid rodents becoming a pests; and consuming clean drinking-water.
Leptospirosis occurs worldwide, but is most prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions.
A wide variety of animal species, both wild and domestic, can serve as sources of infection for humans.
The species that are considered to be the most important include feral and peri-domestic rodents (rats, mice, voles, etc.) and domestic animals (cattle, pigs, dogs and horses).
Leptospirosis can occasionally also be transmitted through the drinking of water or ingestion of food contaminated with urine of infected animals, often rats.
The bacteria enter the body through cuts and abrasions on the skin, or through the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and eyes. Person-to-person transmission is rare.
The incubation period of leptospirosis is usually 5–14 days, with a range of 2–30 days. The symptoms following infection with leptospira can vary from a mild ‘flu’-like illness to a serious and sometimes fatal disease.
Leptospirosis is often difficult to diagnose clinically, as it can appear to be very similar to many other diseases such as dengue, typhoid and viral hepatitis. Although the disease is a self-limiting and often clinically inapparent illness in the majority of cases, 5-15% of untreated cases can progress to a more severe and potentially fatal stage.
In the early stages of the disease, symptoms include high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, chills, redness of the eyes, abdominal pain, jaundice, haemorrhages in the skin and mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhoea, and rash.