The Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the month of March have been conducting a territory-wide survey to determine how much Leptospirosis has spread since the first case was reported in October 2017, following the storms.
In 2017, ten cases of Leptospirosis were discovered in Puerto Rico, along with one case in the USVI. In both territories, the sometimes deadly disease emerged following Hurricane Maria.
In recent times, however, two cases — one on St. Croix and the other on St. Thomas — were discovered, and D.O.H. along with the C.D.C. have been visiting neighborhoods asking individuals to participate in a voluntary survey which includes a blood test to determine whether an individual has the disease. The survey ends on Sunday.
“A team of two, including a certified phlebotomist, may knock on your door to ask you questions and draw a blood sample to test for Leptospirosis,” the department said. “Your participation helps the Health Department’s epidemiology team better understand the disease’s prevalence in our community. Please consider participating.”
Leptospirosis is an infection caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacteria called Leptospira. Signs and symptoms can range from none to mild such as headaches, muscle pains, and fevers; to severe with bleeding from the lungs or meningitis.
If the infection causes the person to turn yellow, have kidney failure and bleed, it is then known as Weil’s disease. If it causes a lot of bleeding into the lungs, it is known as severe pulmonary hemorrhage syndrome.
The disease is not uncommon in the tropics, particularly after heavy rain and flooding, and its symptoms may sometimes be confused with other illnesses such as dengue.
Leptospirosis is transmitted by both wild and domestic animals. However, the most common animals that spread the disease are rodents. It is often transmitted by animal urine or by water or soil containing animal urine coming into contact with breaks in the skin, eyes, mouth, or nose.