Results of study on leptospirosis outbreak during Ondoy can help victims of typhoon Sendong


The typhoon Sendong left thousands dead in Mindanao, survivors learn that their suffering is not yet over as they struggle for their lives for the second time because of the outbreak of leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is spread by catching infected urine of rodents

Leptospirosis is a vector borne disease caused by various species of the Leptospira bacteria. However, unlike other vector borne diseases such as malaria, dengue or rabies that are transmitted only through physical contact with the infected animal, leptospirosis does not require the physical presence of the animal for the disease to be transmitted. As long as there is contact between the skin or the mucous membranes with water, mud or vegetation that has been contaminated by the urine of vector animals the disease transmission can occur.

Leptospirosis is an endemic disease in the Philippines. It naturally occurs in various parts of the country at specific seasons. Heavy torrential rains and flooding caused by huge typhoons such as Ondoy in 2009 and Sendong, for example, triggers the outbreak of leptospirosis in the affected areas.

A study done by Dr. Myrna T. Mendoza and Dr. Evalyn A. Roxas of the Universtiy of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital (UP–PGH) with the support of the Philippine Council for Health Research Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD–DOST) which compares leptospirosis that occurs seasonally with the leptospirosis that occurs after the typhoon Ondoy in 2009 yields surprising results that can help the victims of typhoon Sendong today. Dr. Mendoza reported that the patients in typhoon-affected areas show more severe complications from the disease than the patients who were infected with the disease at a different time of the year.

“Patients during Ondoy were more sick than the ones seen during times of seasonal leptospirosis. Majority of the patients needed hospitalization for moderate to severe leptospirosis,” the study revealed.

The study also showed that fever is almost a universal manifestation of the disease. Thus, a widespread fever in typhoon survivor population can be a very good determinant of an emerging leptospirosis outbreak in the typhoon-affected areas. Acute renal failure is seen as the most common complication experienced by the victims of flood. Drop in the blood pressure was found to be a good indicator of a heightened risk for hemorrhage in the patients. Doctors are warned to prepare for such cases.

Although the study disclosed frightening data about leptospirosis outbreaks after a huge typhoon, it still imparts a very good revelation to both the victims and health providers. The study showed that despite the appearance of more fatal complications in patients after Ondoy, only a few fatalities were reported. This was because of the quick medical treatment given to the patients.

Dr. Mendoza said, “This can be attributed probably to better medical intervention and care of the patients in tertiary hospitals where the patients were admitted, the timely recognition of the diseases and the declaration of an outbreak by the Department of Health (DOH).”(Richmond Acosta/PCHRD-DOST)