BANGKOK (AlertNet) –Leptospirosis has killed 15 people in the areas of Northern Mindanao that were ravaged by catastrophic floods last month, while the severe bacterial disease has infected over 400 people and the number of cases is expected to increase, the Philippine Star reported on Friday.
Emiliano Galban Jr., spokesman of the Department of Health (DOH) in Northern Mindanao, said eight fatalities came from Cagayan de Oro and seven from Iligan, the two cities most affected by the mid-December tropical storm that killed more than 1,200 people on the island in the southern Philippines.
Leptospirosis is contracted through wounds or broken skin that come into contact with flood waters, vegetation or moist soil that are contaminated by bacteria coming from the urine of infected animals, mainly rats. Person-to-person transmission is rare, according to the World Health Organization.
The DOH confirmed the outbreak on Monday.
Local offices of the Department of Health have already upped the distribution of free antibiotics in the area, but nonetheless still expect a rise in the number of cases of the disease, the Philippine Star reported.
Tropical Storm Washi, said to be one of the worst natural disasters the country has experienced in two decades, destroyed some 10,000 houses. More than 230,000 remain displaced from their homes almost three weeks after the storm hit, the United Nations told AlertNet this week. About 1,100 people are still missing.
On Thursday the United Nations’ resident coordinator in the Philippines, Jacqui Badcock, had told AlertNet the priority for the government and aid agencies was to treat the cases early.
“Early detection is vital as delay could lead to serious illness and even death,” she said.
“It is curable if suspected early, diagnosed at the right time and treated immediately by a doctor using readily available antibiotics.”
(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)