Jakarta’s floods have brought a new peril to tIndonesians trying to cope with that country’s latest disaster: A rat related disease, Leptospirosis has been diagnosed in one patient, but since it’s early symptoms are similar to that of many other illnesses, including influenza and dengue fever, authorities are worried that more cases will soon be diagnosed, since the disease may not appear until two days to four weeks after exposure. Then the symptoms may be mild or may appear as a sudden headache and body ache with high fever. Severe cases develop liver, kidney and brain complications and can die.

The treatement is simple antibiotics such as penicillin or tetracycline, and the worry is that many people in Jakarta, who are used to summer viruses with fever, may not seek help in time for the antibiotics to work.

Leptospirosis is spread from rat urine contaminating the flood waters, and authorities worry that those wading in shallow water will catch the disease. In rural areas of the USA it can be found in skunks and cattle, but in cities, rats are usually the cause. A recent American outbreak in California was in young men swimming in a fresh water lake.

By publicizing the threat, it is hoped that people will avoid wading in water, and if they develop flu like symptoms will seek medical treatment early, preventing complications.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines with her husband. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket

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