Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that we can get from animals. It can be spread whenever the animals urinated on the water, especially rodents and dogs.
Leptospirosis can be unpleasant, but in most cases, it cannot be life-threatening, unlike flu. The symptoms rarely last for more than one week. However, when you have a severe case of leptospirosis, you will first get better and then get sick once again. This is now called Weil’s disease, which can lead to serious health problems. Examples of this are swollen legs and arms plus chest pain, which requires hospitalization.
Nowadays, some water sources can be contaminated by leptospirosis. But no worries, there are ways to treat the water from this bacteria. Thus, in this article, we will understand more about leptospirosis and how to treat your water source.
How Can One Get Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria known as “Leptospira interrogans.” This bacteria can be found in most animals that live in their kidneys. Whenever they urinate, the bacteria ends up in the soil or water.
Whenever you are around the water or soil contaminated with animal pee, the bacteria can invade your body through your wounds or dry areas. Moreover, it can enter through your mouth, nose, or genitals. It is hard to acquire leptospirosis from other human beings. However, research provides that it can be passed through breastfeeding or sexual intercourse.
You are at risk of having leptospirosis whenever you spend most of your time with animals or outdoors. Also, you can get it when you are rafting, swimming, or camping near affected rivers or lakes. The Leptospira bacteria can thrive in a high humidity environment with a neutral pH of 6.9 to 7.4. They can live in stagnant water reservoirs like ponds, bogs, shallow lakes, puddles, and others because these are their natural habitat. You will be more exposed to leptospirosis if your job is one of the following:
- Miner, sewer, or underground worker
- Slaughterhouse worker
- Military personnel
Take note that leptospirosis is often found in warm climates. The bacteria can be found worldwide, but it is common in Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. In the United States, research provides that there are around 100 to 150 cases of leptospirosis each year.
Leptospirosis outbreaks can occur after flooding or heavy rainfall in endemic areas. This is especially true for areas with poor sanitation conditions or poor housing.
Historically, Leptospirosis is a rural disease. But it has disseminated to become an urban epidemic in developing countries and developing nations.
For example, there is a Leptospirosis outbreak in India due to poor drainage, and one can get infected with unintentional ingestion or skin abrasion. It is also due to contaminated food and beverages which are sold by the street vendors. Moreover, leptospirosis can be brought about by inadequately treated raw or tap water sources. Finally, it can be because of contact with infected rat populations.
Flooding because of natural disasters like hurricanes, storms, and monsoons can drown areas with contaminated water. This can pose dangerous health concerns to the citizens, especially children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
The raw standing water can contain various bacterial contaminants like cysts and viruses. Meanwhile, the water treatment plants in low areas can be compromised, which can spill treated sewage from open basins and pipes which hold pumps and tanks. Finally, infrastructure damage and power outages can lead to water shortages or having unreliable water quality.
Symptoms of Leptospirosis
Within two weeks after contamination, you can see the signs and symptoms of leptospirosis. But in some cases, the symptoms might not show up for one month or more.
When you have the disease, it will hit you fast. First, you can have a fever, which may spike up to 104 F. Some more symptoms are muscle ache, headache, vomiting, skin rash, and diarrhea.
The majority of these symptoms are the same as other diseases like meningitis and flu. Thus, it is essential to get yourself tested. Meanwhile, leptospirosis can be treated by using antibiotics like doxycycline and penicillin. For muscle pain and fever, your doctor can also recommend the use of ibuprofen.
How to Treat Leptospirosis
Patients who are experiencing a severe type of leptospirosis will have to spend some time in the hospital. The stay in the hospital can range from a few days, weeks, or months, depending on how the patient responds to the antibiotic given by the doctor. After that, they will have to receive antibiotics intravenously for quick relief. Intravenous fluids can avoid the loss of essential nutrients and hydration, which can prevent further complications.
The patient affected with leptospirosis will need to use a ventilator if he has difficulty breathing, depending on the organ affected by leptospirosis. Meanwhile, if the bacteria has affected the kidneys, then dialysis is necessary.
If the mother is pregnant, leptospirosis can also affect the fetus. Those who have the infection during pregnancy will have to spend some time in the hospital for monitoring.
How to Reduce the Risk of Acquiring Leptospirosis
If you are involved in activities in wet soil or freshwater, there are steps that you can take to reduce your risk of acquiring leptospirosis. Indeed, prevention is essential. Here are the things that you can do:
Research the Place of Outdoor Activity
Research the place in which you will be spending your outdoor activity. Be informed of the potential risks, especially if you are going on a place for vacation.
Try to avoid swimming or going to lakes, swamps, or rivers, which are contaminated by leptospirosis. See to it that you wash your hands and face with water and soap after contact with damp soil or freshwater. If it is unavoidable to be exposed to contaminated water, consider communicating with your doctor. He may prescribe you medicine to prevent leptospirosis.
Wear Personal Protective Equipment
Wear protective shoes or clothing (personal protective equipment or PPE) during outdoor activities. Make sure to avoid walking barefoot in places that are potentially contaminated with mud or water.
Wait for your Wounds to Heal
Before going on wet soil or freshwater, make sure that you wait for your scrapes or cuts to get healed. If the wounds take too long to heal and your trip is going on, see to it that you cover it with watertight bandages.
Avoid Contact with Infected Animals Like Wild Rats
Rodents and rats are the main carriers of leptospirosis bacteria. In the West, around 20% of wild rats have leptospirosis. If you come in contact with their habitat, be sure that you are extremely careful.
In developed countries, their farm animals are vaccinated, unlike in developing countries. Thus, there’s less risk. If the animal is ill, avoid getting bitten, or the bacteria will transfer via fluids. Remember that the disease can’t be transferred through the air like flu or cold.
Be Aware of the Surroundings
In foreign countries where poor sanitation is prevalent, leptospirosis can be harder to avoid. Thus, it is best to recognize the symptoms and seek immediate health attention as much as possible.
Acid solutions, Lysol, Bleach, and iodine can kill the bacteria. Thus, it is best to keep them on hand to clean yourself and eliminate the bacteria.
Be Careful in Preparing your Food
Always be careful in preparing your food. Avoid consuming raw milk, unpasteurized juices, or unpasteurized dairy products. Make sure that you wash raw produce like fruits and vegetables thoroughly. This is true for green and leafy vegetables since they can provide crevices for the bacteria to adhere to. See to it that you rinse carefully the food that you prepare to remove the dirt and bacteria. Finally, store meat and non-meat products separately and use separate chopping boards as much as possible.
Avoid Drinking the Contaminated Water
If you are visiting a foreign country, do not drink the water unless you are sure it is clean. Since leptospirosis can enter the body through different openings, it is also best to avoid sailing, waterskiing, swimming, or fishing in freshwater areas. It is safer to fish in saltwater areas.
Disinfecting the Drinking Water
It is not hard to disinfect your drinking water even if you are outdoors or in a foreign country. But this depends on how much water you need or how permanent the water problem is in your area. Disinfecting one bottle of water during your camping is not the same as processing the water spring that will flow to your entire house. Thus, here are some techniques that you can try to disinfect your water and prevent leptospirosis:
The bacteria and the pathogens found in the lakes and rivers can be killed by boiling the water for a few minutes. Thus, boiling water will work best if you want water on small volumes only. Boiling is the first option that you can try for camping trips.
With boiling, the food cooked at or above the boiling point like meat is safe to consume. Boiling needs a power source, but it doesn’t require the use of chemicals. Thus, it is an acceptable option to try to use a method with less impact on their diet.
Meanwhile, boiling is not a recommended option to try in the general household water supply. But you can try it to make your drinking water safe.
It is also effective to try water purification tables that utilize iodine. It doesn’t need to have a heat source, but it can leave a taste that some people find unpleasant.
Meanwhile, iodine tablets are easy to use, and it is lightweight, especially when traveling. Hikers, campers, and military personnel bring iodine tablets to have clean drinking water when out in the wild. Thus, this is an ideal option for those who are always on the go. Finally, iodine tablets are not an effective option for disinfecting large volumes of water to fight leptospirosis in the household. You can try other disinfecting options like Chlorination or UV sterilizers.
UV sterilizers are an effective option in fighting leptospirosis and other pathogens, and they can be bought on different scales. There are permanent systems that process the flow of water inside the house with the use of electricity. However, it can be expensive and be beyond the budget of some homeowners.
Meanwhile, portable devices incorporate UV sterilizers such as pens, flashlights, or tumblers, which can sterilize a cup of water. However, you will need to buy batteries for this.
With UV sterilizers, there is no need to use any chemicals. Moreover, the electricity required is less compared with water boiling for the same volume of water. However, the water needs to be transparent. Thus, it is not recommended to be used in disinfecting fluids like milk.
Water, which is not used for drinkings like ornamental features and swimming, can be disinfected and protected from leptospirosis by chlorination. It is a complex engineering process, especially in commercial pools. But in private pools, owners would usually add tablets to the water.
It would be best if you kept the chlorine levels high. However, it must not be too high that it will trigger allergies. Thus, it is best to test the water first with the available kits in pool stores. Leptospirosis can be killed by chlorine in commercial pools whenever you follow the instructions on the chlorine packets.
Black Berkey Purification Elements Effective in Removing Leptospirosis
The upper chamber of the Berkey products can remove leptospirosis in the water. The product comes with the standard Berkey systems, which have been proven to remove bacteria and viruses eight times smaller than the Leptospira virus.
Indeed, the Berkey products can effectively purify raw water from the river, lake, and pond. However, you should use the clearest and cleanest water as much as possible.
Moreover, as an additional warning, if you are using water you think might be contaminated with viruses or bacteria, add bleach or iodine to it before purifying. This will kill pathogens within 30 minutes. The Berkey can remove the disinfectant entirely out of the water plus the foul taste and odor.
In sum, leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can affect both animals and humans. It is due to a wide range of signs and symptoms which can be mistaken for other forms of diseases. Some persons may not experience any symptoms at all.
There are ways that you can try to prevent leptospirosis, like avoiding contaminated waters, wearing protective clothing, or disinfecting your water source. If you think you have leptospirosis, it is best to consult your doctor for immediate medical attention. Please don’t wait for it to worsen your condition.
Without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to meningitis, kidney damage, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, respiratory distress, and even death. Thus, prevention is better to prevent these things from happening to you and your family.