Animal pee in puddles loaded with curly bacteria, Thailand warned

A group of foreigners “swim” in the middle of a flooded Khao San Road  in 2016. Photo: @Dickyman96
A group of foreigners “swim” in the middle of a flooded Khao San Road in 2016. Photo: @Dickyman96

Rainy season is upon us and with it all manner of illnesses. Joining the airborne threat of influenza and dengue is a watery hazard from corkscrew-shaped bacteria that can worm into humans and kill them.

Health officials today warned against walking barefoot through puddles to avoid leptospirosis –  a bacteria commonly found in all kinds of animal pee – rats, dogs, cats, cows and other mammals – that has already killed eight people this year.

Mostly prevalent in the northeast and south, Leptospirosis is present in the central region as well. It’s primarily spread by contact with contaminated water or soil, according to department permsec Sukhum Karnchanapima. That makes puddles, standing flood water and muddy areas especially risky. The bacteria can enter the bloodstream through open wounds, scratches, prolonged exposure or just inadvertently consuming infected pee-tainted water or food.

Especially risky areas include markets, farms, gardens and houses.  

Government epidemiologists report that of the 622 cases of leptospirosis reported this year, eight have been fatal. Most were farmers in rural areas.  

People are advised to refrain from walking barefoot and should wear watertight footwear when walking through wet grounds.

If any part of the body comes in contact with dirty water, wash it thoroughly with soap. Food and drinks, meanwhile, should be kept clean and in closed areas. Offices and houses should be kept tidy to prevent rats.

Symptoms of a Leptospirosis infection can include: high fever, headaches, chills, muscle aches (especially thighs and calves), headaches, vomiting, diarrhea and red eyes, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More severe symptoms may include meningitis, kidney failure leading to inability to urinate, liver failure causing yellow eyes and skin, exhaustion, coughing blood and shock.

Anyone exhibiting these symptoms should immediately seek medical attention. Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics, which should be prescribed as early as possible.

The illness can last anywhere from a few days to three weeks or longer. Without treatment, however, recovery may take months.

For more information, call the Disease Control Department hotline at 1422. Limited service is available in English.


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