WiRED Launches Leptospirosis Module in Response to Rise of Cases in Puerto Rico


What is leptospirosis and why is it emerging in Puerto Rico?


Leptospirosis is a bacterial zoonosis, a disease that affects both humans and animals. Humans become infected through direct contact with the urine of infected animals or with a urine-contaminated environment. Leptospirosis often spreads after floods when drinking water becomes polluted or open wounds are infected. Without treatment, leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.


WiRED just released an urgent response module on leptospirosis into its Health Learning Center e-library. The Leptospirosis Module describes leptospirosis, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, consequences and methods of prevention.


A month after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, millions of residents still don’t have access to electricity, proper health care or clean water. The storm’s aftermath has produced contaminated stagnant water and poor sanitation — conditions ideally suited to the spread of diseases such as leptospirosis.


Dr. Paul Hernandez, an internist in San Juan, told CNN, “Due to a lack of safe drinking water, people are drinking from whatever water sources they can find — rivers, creeks. If that water contains urine from an infected rat [or other animal], the disease will spread.”


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) One Health program states that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the health of the environment. As climate change endangers our planet, outbreaks of infectious diseases can be expected to occur after hurricanes and other natural disasters. WiRED believes it is more important than ever to get educated about disease and the connection between humans, animals and the environment.