DOH warns of anti-leptospirosis drug abuse

By Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 11 2012 12:52 AM | Updated as of Aug 13 2012 06:43 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday warned the public against the indiscriminate use of doxycycline, a medicine for leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis may be contracted by wading in floodwaters contaminated with the urine of infected animals, particularly rats. It is caused by the Leptospira bacteria.

Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said that while doxycycline provides some degree of protection to exposed individuals, it should not give them false hope that they will not acquire the disease after taking the medicine.

“It is not 100% effective so those who waded in floodwaters should continue to monitor themselves for symptoms like fever. And when a symptom starts to come out, they have to see a doctor immediately,” he said.

Symptoms of leptospirosis usually come out in two to 10 days.

Tayag noted that the use of doxycycline requires consultation with a doctor.

“This prophylaxis is not for everybody. It should not be taken by pregnant women and children below eight years old,” he added.

“Doxycycline should not be taken by lactating women. It can be provided to children below eight years old only upon medical advice and supervision,” the DOH said in a memorandum.

According to Tayag, the DOH is giving out doxycycline to evacuation centers but it is prioritizing “frontline responders” like rescue, military and police personnel and health workers.

The memorandum showed there are factors that may affect “prophylactic effectiveness.” These include the “quality of drugs, timing of intake of prophylaxis, drug interaction, the presence or absence of skin wound, and degree and extent of exposure.”

It also stated that prevention of leptospirosis through doxycycline may be achieved depending on the risk categories of exposure.

The DOH recorded 2,213 leptospirosis cases with 106 deaths from Jan. 1 to July 28 nationwide.

The figure is 87.23% higher from the 1,182 cases registered during the same period last year.