See a doctor if you fall sick after outdoor water activities

Members of the public are advised to urgently seek treatment if they experience fever, headache and muscle pain within two weeks after an outdoor water activity such as swimming at a recreational park.


Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said it is also imperative for patients to inform the attending doctor that they had visited such a place as the symptoms could be associated with leptospirosis.

“This is to avoid complications or death. Most cases would recover with early treatment,” he stressed, citing other symptoms such as chills, nausea and vomiting, jaundice, red eye, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, coughing, and skin rash.

Pools and rivers at recreational parks are known to have been contaminated with the urine of animals infected with the bacterial disease.

Leptospirosis, said Dr Noor Hisham could be particularly fatal in comorbid cases where the patient has chronic diseases or conditions.

“Complications that could arise are meningitis, severe pulmonary haemorrhage and failure of the liver and kidneys.”

Nevertheless, he said more than 90% of reported cases in Malaysia were sporadic and not associated with an outbreak.

“Ever since the gazetting of leptospirosis as a notifiable disease on 9 Dec 2010 under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, the number of reported cases has increased.

“In 2012, there were 3,665 cases, in 2013 (4,457), 2014 (7,806), 2015 (8,291), and this year as at May 14, 2128 cases. There were 48 reported deaths in 2012, 71 in 2013, 92 in 2014, 78 in 2015 and four this year as at May.

“In 2015, 5,455 of the 8,291 cases or 66% were men and 2,836 or 34% women. Incidence is highest among those aged between 25 and 55 (47%).”

He said the more likely susceptible groups include workers in the agricultural, waste management and recreational sectors; rescue personnel; and domestic animal and pet handlers. Those with chronic conditions such as open sores are also vulnerable.

Dr Noor Hisham said another contributing factor to leptospirosis was filthy food stalls or eateries, which would attract reservoir hosts such as rats.

In this regard, he said personal hygiene and cleanliness of the surroundings were crucial in preventing contamination.

“Leptospirosis is an issue involving various agencies other than the health agency. This is because the Health Ministry is NOT responsible in waste management, drains and pipes and licencing of food premises.”

On its part, he said, the health ministry had initiated cooperation with the Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Ministry, local authorities, Forestry Department, and National Service Training Department.

The ministry had also roped in non-governmental organisations and the media through sharing of knowledge and information to promote public awareness via the electronic media and newspapers, he said.