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Leptospirosis in Puerto Rico

21 Oct 2022

The Puerto Rican Department of Health have reported (in Spanish) an increase in leptospirosis cases following the passage of Hurricane Fiona which hit Puerto Rico in mid September 2022 causing heavy rainfall and flooding.  There have been 108 suspected, probable or confirmed cases reported since early September. The towns of Mayagüez and San Juan, and Cagus municipality have reported the highest number of cases.

So far in 2022, 226 cases of leptospirosis, including 14 deaths have been reported on the Island.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection found in the pee of infected animals (usually rats or other rodents). People become infected when they have contact with water which has been contaminated by the infected animal's pee.

Advice for Travellers

You may be at increased risk of infection whilst travelling if you will be:

  • involved in outdoor water sports such as white-water rafting, adventure racing, kayaking or triathlon events, particularly following heavy rains or flooding
  • wading through flood water or swimming or washing in contaminated water
  • at risk through your job, for example farmers, veterinarians, sewage workers and fish farmers are at greater risk

If you are travelling to an area where there has been an outbreak of leptospirosis, you should:

  • be aware of the risk and avoid exposure to fresh water especially after heavy rains and floods, when contamination is more likely
  • always protect your skin when travelling, particularly in tropical climates. All cuts, scratches and open skin lesions should be covered with waterproof plasters
  • avoid swallowing or drinking water that could be infected
  • wear protective clothing (wet suits and goggles) especially footwear, for example, waders if the risk is considered high and exposure is unavoidable.  Careful washing and showering after possible exposure may be helpful.

There is no vaccine available in the UK to protect against leptospirosis.

See the fitfortravel Leptospirosis page for further information.