The Department of Public Health and Social Services has received reports of five confirmed and three probable leptospirosis cases in the past seven weeks, according to a news release from the department.
Leptospirosis infection on Guam occurs mainly in people who have been hiking or swimming in streams and rivers in the southern part of the island after heavy rains, according to the release.
Infection was recently confirmed in three cases in November: one confirmed case, along with three probable cases, all of whom were swimming in the Ylig River at the Manenggon Memorial on Veterans Day.
For the other two confirmed cases in November, one has no additional information available and the other case involved working at an unspecified outdoor jobsite.
Infection was also recently confirmed from tests conducted off-island, in two separate U.S. Naval Hospital cases in mid-October: one active duty military member who had been hiking at San Carlos Falls in Nimitz Hill, and a military dependent whose exposure is unknown.
Leptospirosis is an infection that may be fatal. It is transmitted from animals to humans by infected urine.
Infection can occur through breaks in the skin or through the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth.
Symptoms can range from high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea and rash, and leptospirosis can be mistaken for other diseases such as dengue fever or influenza.
Without treatment, the disease can lead to kidney and liver failure and even death.
People who feel sick with a fever and think they have the disease should quickly consult a doctor. Early antibiotic treatment is a major determinant of rapid recovery and prevents most of the severe complications and fatalities.
Heavy rainfall is an important trigger of leptospirosis in tropical areas like Guam.
Contamination occurs at the time of heavy rain flooding events or very shortly after, so people with the disease seek medical care one to three weeks after storms.
Since Guam has had a lot of rain and stormy weather recently, this is the likely reason why Public Health is seeing numerous confirmed and probable leptospirosis cases, according to the news release.
The risk of acquiring leptospirosis can be greatly reduced by not swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine. Protective clothing or footwear should be worn by those exposed to contaminated water or soil because of their job or recreational activities.