Leptospirosis: Causes, Symptoms, and Advice for Prevention

Leptospirosis is an infectious bacterial disease that affects both humans and animals. It is caused by a strain of bacteria called Leptospira, which is found in certain animals and can spread to humans. Moreover, people get leptospirosis through contact with fresh water, wet soil or vegetation contaminated by the urine of infected animals. Furthermore, in its most severe form, leptospirosis is also known as Weil’s disease.

Causes of Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is caused by the Leptospira bacteria, which is found in some animals and can spread to humans. Many different domestic and wild animals can carry the bacteria, but the most common are:

  • Rats and mice
  • Cattle
  • Pigs
  • Horses
  • Dogs

The bacteria are passed out in the urine of the infected animals. Bacteria can survive for several weeks, and even months in soil or water. Additionally, people become diseased with the Leptospira bacteria if polluted water or soil comes into contact with their eyes, mouth, nose, or any open cuts in the skin. Moreover, drinking polluted water can also cause infection. Moreover, person-to-person transmission is rare.

People like sewage workers, and those who regularly deal with animals, such as farmers, freshwater fishermen, veterinarians and slaughterhouse workers are at a higher risk of developing leptospirosis.

Furthermore, Leptospirosis is found all over the world, but is most popular in tropical and subtropical areas. Because the Leptospira bacteria are able to survive longest in hot and humid conditions.

Symptoms of Leptospirosis

Symptoms of leptospirosis usually appear suddenly, about 5 to 14 days after infection, but the incubation period can range from 2 days to 30 days. Moreover, the illness often occurs in 2 phases. The first phase shows mild symptoms that include:

  • High Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Red eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash

Furthermore, most patients recover and do not progress to the second phase. In few cases, a second phase occurs, which is more severe, and may affect organs, including the brain, liver, kidneys, heart and lungs. Futhermore, severe leptospirosis infections are sometimes called Weil’s disease. Second phase symptoms are more serious and include:

  • Jaundice
  • Kidney Failure
  • Internal bleeding
  • Meningitis
  • ARDS – Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • Hemoptysis
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Chest pain
  • Swollen ankles, feet, or hands

Without proper treatment, recovery can take several months. Moreover, if left untreated, the disease can be life threatening, with problems like organ failure and internal bleeding.

Leptospirosis Treatment

Effective antibiotics are available. Many cases of leptospirosis are mild and are treated with a course of antibiotics such as Doxycycline or Penicillin. Morepver, it is important to complete the course of antibiotics even if you are feeling well. Stopping treatment before all the bacteria are killed may cause the infection to return. Moreover, people with severe illness require hospitalization for treatment of complications.

Prevention of Leptospirosis

  • Avoid swimming or wading in fresh water that might be contaminated with animal urine.
  • Eliminate contact with potentially infected animals.
  • Wear protective clothing and boots while participating in recreational or work activities that may result in exposure to contaminated water, mud or vegetation.
  • Cover all cuts and broken skin with waterproof dressings.
  • Wash or shower after exposure to urine splashes, infected animals and contaminated soil or water. Always wash hands before eating or drinking.
  • Consume clean drinking water.
  • Vaccinate domestic mammals like farm animals and pets.
  • Control Rodents