Thursday, October 25, 2012

Leptospirosis - Know The Disease

This little known disease has claimed the first recorded death in Malaysia in 1925. In recent years, It has became more prevalent. In Malaysia, it is considered as an endemic (or when that infection is maintained in the population without the need for external factor/infection). It is also known that this disease is prevalent in animals (as carrier). It is otherwise known as a zoonatic disease which is contagious and can transfer from animal to human.
Good Reading Materials on Leptospirosis
2. A Case Study: Leptospirosis In Malaysia
Many of us, myself especially, often goes into the trail and races in Adventure races. The risk is there and as with everything in life, we have to deal with it once it hit us.
April 2012 media report on the death that happened in March 2012 at a Sg. Siput National Service Camp
Our mainstream media is not doing enough to raise awareness of this potentially fatal disease (potentially as in, if correctly diagnosed, can be prevented). Most news I found/read came from other sources that were NOT mainstream. However, the truth is known by many and there is no way to hide these.
From AFP - Non-mainstream
Leptospirosis are often known locally as the "rat urine disease". While the connection is true, many other animals, wild and domesticated could be potential carrier. We can't do much about the wild animals, but domesticated animals, especially pets, need to receive their yearly vaccination as part of being a responsible pet owner. Transmission of this disease is via broken skin, the eyes or even ingestion. From there, it will enter the bloodstream and will attack the body cells and organ.
What To Avoid
There are reasons why i often shy away from those "cool zone" at some races or "shower zone" that were prepared by the race organisers. One must remember to be careful of the sources of water and most importantly, the container used to store the water for these water mist.
Always a risk
Unless the water source used were from potable water or piped water, one should minimise the risk of passing under these installation.
Puddles of stagnant water in the trails and/or jungle should also be approached with caution. One must not soak themselves too long in these unknown water source and minimise contact if possible. Moving water is OK and bear little or no risk - but beware of stagnant water, always.
Suspicious looking water station set up by race organisers where the water served is NOT from bottled sources. There is always the risk of contamination from the container, especially if they are left overnight. Learn to carry your own water - or drink at your own risk. If the water taste funny, chances is that they are. Avoid.
BYOW - Bring Your Own Water. Seen here is Desaru 116km race, where i carried a bottle of water while running
Always remember to wash the top of your canned food or drinks. Many do not realise this but food and drinks left in the supermarket or grocery stores are an open landmine where insects such as roaches (that carries diseases), rats and even lizards to pee and leave their feces. Always look at what you will put in your mouth, for you never know what you will ingest and regret.
I will quote the medically correct article where applicable as this blog entry serves as a reminder and guidance. Symptoms will typically show between two days and four weeks. In severe cases, it could happen within 24hours. This has been proven in the case of the National Service trainee in the article above where the disease manifested and he passed away within four days. With all due respect to a fellow runner friend, Cheah Meei Meei, that has shown sign of this during the last race in Perhentian Island Challenge, she too, has the same diagnosis as the late Vinoth (RIP). Should you have, after a race/training and you crossed puddle of water/drank water and shows symptoms such as:
Dry cough
Food poisoning like symptoms
Muscle ache
Skin rash
Joint pain
Sore throat
*a more complete syndrome could be obtained here 
Medical Attention
Seek immediate medical attention and request/alert the doctors of your activities and possibly check for leptospirosis. The Doctors/clinic/hospital will usually do a blood test specific to test for a few markers such as kidney and liver functions. However, some of these are expensive and not all medical facilities are equipped to do this - and by then, it could be too late. Early medical help understating the condition and what you did before the infection happen could potentially save your life. One thing to note is not to self-treat. Knowing what type of antibiotic to take will not help unless you get the prescription from a learned medical practitioner. As this infection will attack the liver and kidney, in extreme cases, dialysis will be needed as a supportive treatment to the kidney.
Do not take any sickness or complication that happened after any race, more so if it potentially exposes you to questionable water sources lightly. If condition do not improve after 4-hours (as typically it takes 4-hours for food to pass through the gastrointestinal tract) and worsen, it is a sign that the body is struggling and medical attention must be considered. Charcoal pills or traditional tummy ache pills might suppress minor food poisoning (or symptom), but in case of bacteria infection, these over the counter (OTC) drugs will not help.


  1. These days, when I go to waterfalls, I try not to drink from the river, no matter if it's flowing or super clean. I used to gulp down river water and how I did it was to wade myself into the river until my paras mulut and open my mouth. Gulp Gulp.
    But after the 10 who died, I stopped doing that. I miss drinking from clean rivers :(

    1. The 10 from the picnic spot? Don't take risk bro. If really must gulp gulp gulp...bring the sterilization pill.