Do not bathe in the lake or river in Southeast Asia

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Urgent health warning: Do not bathe in lakes and rivers in Southeast Asia.

(27.08.2010) The Center for Travel Medicine (CRM) is currently warning of bathing in rivers and lakes in the countries of Southeast Asia. Numerous cases of leptospirosis have been reported from the areas. Leptospirosis is a dangerous infectious disease that is caused by bacterial pathogens. If the disease or secondary illnesses take a severe course, the liver and kidneys can fail, which in turn leads to death.
The pathogens of the disease are found mainly in waters such as rivers and lakes. The infection occurs through open wounds on the skin. Even mosquito bites can be enough to pave the way for the leptospirosis pathogen. As reported by the travel center, several people have died of the disease in Malaysia, and two tourists have already been infected in Laos.

Travelers who have returned from vacation and complain of flu-like symptoms such as fever and body aches should definitely see a doctor. This also applies if a few weeks after the return from vacation. Because the incubation period of leptospirosis can vary widely. In some cases, the disease appears after a few days after infection, in other cases after a few weeks.

The CRM particularly advises backpackers ("backpackers") to seek advice from a travel doctor or qualified pharmacist before traveling to Southeast Asia. The symptoms resemble flu, patients complain of fever, muscle and joint pain. Very severe forms are found in Weil's disease, where the liver and kidneys can fail completely. The disease can then lead to death. Conjunctivitis as a result can last up to 4 weeks. Other complications of leptospirosis include meningitis, jaundice and liver function disorders. A disease is usually treated with penicillin, which however is only effective up to 5 days after the onset of the disease.

Around 170 people in Germany contract leptospirosis every year. The disease is therefore very rare in our latitudes and was mostly introduced from Far Eastern countries. (sb)

Image: Rosel Eckstein /

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Video: Mighty Mekong- Mother River of Southeast Asia


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