Getting To Know Leptospirosis

Getting To Know Leptospirosis


23 May 2016


The recent leptospirosis cases have been worrying. Equipping ourselves with a better knowledge of the disease can help us prevent the spread of this disease.

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Leptospirosis is an emerging zoonotic disease in Malaysia with the highest number of cases documented in Kelantan followed by Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak. In Sabah alone, 555 cases with 3 deaths were reported since last year. A student from Seremban recently passed away of this disease after he took a swim in the local Jeram Toi recreational park while two other students were also confirmed to have contracted the disease after a dip at the same park. Read on to find out more about this disease commonly known as the rat urine disease.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is an infectious bacterial disease caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacteria, Leptospira and is transmitted through mud or water contaminated by the urine of infected animals, particularly rodents.

Where does it occur?

Most common is tropical and subtropical areas with heavy rainfall or floods, this disease is found where humans come in contact with contaminated mud or water.

How is it transmitted?

The leptospirosis bacteria enters the human body via

  • Direct contact with urine or tissue of infected animals through skin abrasions or mucous membrane (eyes, nose or mouth)
  • Indirect contact with infected soil, water or vegetation through cuts or cracks in the skin or ingestion of contaminated food or water
  • Inhalation of droplets of infected urine

Human-to-human transmission is rare.

Who are at risk?

Outdoor and agricultural workers, those involved in recreational water activities, sewage workers, disaster relief workers and pet shop workers.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint aches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rashes
  • Conjunctivitis (bloodshot eyes with discharge)

Leptospirosis is often confused with flu, dengue, malaria and fever. If left untreated, leptospirosis infection can soon lead to multi-organ failure and even fatality.

How is leptospirosis treated?

If you are showing symptoms of leptospirosis or are suspecting that you are exposed to this infection, consult your physician immediately. Laboratory tests are important for accurate diagnosis so that appropriate medical prescription or treatment can begin as soon as possible. Leptospirosis is curable with timely diagnosis and immediate treatment by a doctor. Avoid self-medication.

How can you prevent leptospirosis?

  • Keep your environment include drainages clean and dispose of your garbage responsibly to prevent breeding of rodents and contamination of water sources.
  • Avoid eating in unhygienic eateries as unwashed pots, pans and plates and improper disposal of food waste attracts rodents.
  • Always drink and use boiled or filtered water in your meal preparations.
  • Wear protective clothing (eg. long sleeved shirts, long pants, gloves, boots) when working with plants or wet soil.
  • Avoid wading or swimming in muddy ponds or slow moving streams.
  • Conduct regular pest control inspection at home and workplace.


Epidemiology and Current Situation of Leptospirosis in Malaysia


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