Leptospirosis Case in the Philippines at an Alarming 76% Increase

Last month, the Typhoon Ompong (internationally known as Super Typhoon Mangkhut) ravaged through the Philippines. What started as a normal typhoon quickly transformed into a Category 5 hurricane with winds reaching up to 220 miles-per-hour. After bringing its wrath to Guam, the ever-growing typhoon proceeded to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) at 2PM on the 12th of September. When it made its landfall, the Filipinos were ready to face Ompong head on. However, it still caused a tremendous amount of damage, especially in Baguio City and Cagayan Valley. Metro Manila didn’t escape the intensity of Typhoon Ompong either. And because the rain caused severe flooding in several areas nationwide, bacteria is bound to be floating in the murky waters of the streets, bringing with it the menacing presence of Leptospirosis.   
Leptospirosis is a condition that comes from the bacteria of the genus, Leptospira. These bacteria situate in animal kidneys and contaminate through the animals’ urine. Once it comes in contact with human skin, it can work its way through open wounds, dry skin, and even through the mouth. Leptospirosis usually spread through flooding and contaminated waters that may be prone to animal urine. 
According to DOH’s statistics, the number of those affected by leptospirosis dramatically increased in this year alone. From January to June of 2018, the DOH recorded 1,467 cases of leptospirosis nationwide. It is 76% higher than last year’s 834 cases. The disease has also taken 153 lives this year compared to the 90 deaths that occurred in the previous year. With a staggering 844% escalation, the Region 9 hits the top spot with the most significant increase in the leptospirosis case in the Philippines. In second place is CARAGA (518%), and landing on the third spot is Region 4-B. Males aged 15 to 30 years old are the most likely to be affected by this condition. Because of Typhoon Ompong’s raging winds and torrential rains, DOH consequently expects an even more drastic rise in leptospirosis cases. 
Aside from leptospirosis, other pathogens could now be present in stagnant waters. Among these are E. Coli infection, otitis externa (swimmer’s ear), salmonellosis, and typhoid fever. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that more than 800,000 people in the world die of waterborne diseases every year. If this is not prevented, the statistics can take a turn for the worse and take more lives than the current death toll recorded by WHO.
Another factor that aggravates the spread of leptospirosis and other waterborne diseases is our ever-changing environment. Pollution has been rampant since the emergence and production of plastic. The polluted oceans are now causing and fostering multiple bacteria growth useen by the naked eye. Climate change is also in effect with global warming getting worse with every passing year. 
In response to the heightened health risks brought by the typhoon, the Philippine government has deployed rapid health emergency teams to the Cagayan Valley. Additionally, the DOH warned that crammed evacuation areas might be susceptible to airborne diseases. These diseases could disrupt the respiratory flow of the body and cause difficulties in breathing. Evacuation centers could exacerbate common ailments such as hypertension for adolescents and the elderly as well.            
Waterborne diseases are among the most rampant health risks that Filipinos face during typhoons. With this in mind, the public must do their part and equip themselves with sufficient knowledge to protect their health and well-being. Serious diseases like leptospirosis should not be overlooked by both the individual and the community, especially now when our erratic climate makes us more vulnerable than ever.