What Is Leptospirosis & How To Prevent It

Rats are said to be one to the most common transmitters of leptospirosis

What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by leptospira bacteria and transmitted to humans from from both wild and domestic animals. Domestic animals such as dogs, cattle, pigs, and horses can carry the bacteria for the disease, as well as rodents – who are often the primary culprits. Reptiles and amphibians can also transmit leptospira. The disease is not spread from person to person.

How is it contracted?

    • Swimming or wading in waters resulting from flooding
    • Eating foods contaminated with the urine, blood or tissue of infected animals
    • When contaminated foods come in contact with broken skin or the nose and eyes
    • Contact with contaminated soil or water
    • Being bitten by an infected animal

Symptoms of leptospirosis

    • High fever
    • Severe headache
    • Chills
    • Muscle aches
    • Vomiting
    • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea
    • Rash

How to prevent leptospirosis

    • Rash
    • Do not swim or wade in water that might be contaminated with animal urine
    • Eliminate contact with potentially infected animals
    • Wear protective clothing or footwear if you must venture into areas or come in contact with water or soil that may be contaminated water or soil

How to treat leptospirosis

If you experience more than one of the symptoms of leptospirosis, contact a doctor immediately. It can take as little as three weeks, or as long as several months to recover from the disease. A doctor will recommend a course of treatment which normally includes antibiotics. However, for more severe cases, patients may need to be admitted to the hospital.

More on the disease

Leptospirosis can affect the heart, lungs, liver, kidney, or brain. It can also lead to meningitis, kidney or liver failure. If this happens, this severe form of leptospirosis is called Weil’s disease. It is more common in tropical climates, and according to Healthline, persons working in the following professions are at a higher risk of contracting the disease:

  • farmers
  • veterinarians
  • freshwater fishermen
  • butchers and others who work with dead animals
  • people who engage in water sports, like swimming, canoeing, rafting, or kayaking
  • people who bathe in fresh water lakes, rivers, or canals
  • rodent control workers
  • sewer workers
  • soldiers
  • miners

Sources: Ja Ministry of Health, The CDC, Healthline