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Leptospirosis

(Weil's Disease; Icterohemorrhagic Fever; Swineherd's Disease; Rice-Field Fever; Cane-Cutter Fever; Swamp Fever; Mud Fever; Hemorrhagic Jaundice; Stuttgart Disease; Canicola Fever)

Pronounced: lep-to-spy-RO-sis

Definition

Leptospirosis is a rare, but potentially serious, bacterial infection. It is most common in warm, tropical environments, and it spreads easily.

Causes    TOP

Leptospirosis is caused by specific bacteria resulting from contact with fresh water, wet or dampened soil, or vegetation that has been soiled by urine from an infected animal.

When contact is made with the contaminated material, the bacteria enter the body through open sores or wounds in the skin, or through mucous membranes. When the bacteria has entered the body, it flows into the bloodstream and throughout the body, causing infection.

Risk Factors    TOP

The following people are at an increased risk of developing leptospirosis:

  • Canoeists
  • Rafters
  • Swimmers in lakes, rivers, and streams
  • Workers in flood plains
  • Workers in wet agricultural settings
  • People who have pets, particularly dogs or livestock
  • People who work with the land, including farmers, ranchers, loggers, and rice-field workers
  • People who work with animals, including veterinarians

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms typically appear about 10 days after infection and may include one or more of the following:

  • Sudden fever, chills, pain, and headache
  • Dry cough
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Aching joints
  • Sore throat
  • Painful bones
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rigid muscles
  • Rash on the skin
  • Yellow skin and eyes
  • Reduced urine output
  • Neck stiffness

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Cultures or other laboratory tests

Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include antibiotics. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary.

Prevention    TOP

To help reduce your chances of getting leptospirosis:

  • Reduce contact with soil, vegetation, and water that could possibly be contaminated with infected animal urine, including urine from rodents.
  • If working with materials that could potentially be contaminated, wear protective clothing that covers the skin, including waterproof boots or waders.
  • If working in an especially high-risk area, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov
World Health Organization
http://www.who.int

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

References:

Ellis T, Imrie A, Katz AR, Effler PV. Underrecognition of leptospirosis during a dengue fever outbreak in Hawaii, 2001-2002. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2008;8(4):541-547.
Hartskeerl RA, Collares-Pereira M, Ellis WA. Emergence, control and re-emerging leptospirosis: dynamics of infection in the changing world. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2011;17(4):494-501.
Katz AR, Buchholz AE, Hinson K, Park SY, Effler PV. Leptospirosis in Hawaii, USA, 1999-2008. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(2):221-226.
Leptospirosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 18, 2014. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Leptospirosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116239/Leptospirosis. Updated September 8, 2015. Accessed September 27, 2016..
Leptospirosis (Weil's disease). New York State Department of Health website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 2011. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Stern EJ, Galloway R, Shadomy SV, et al. Outbreak of leptospirosis among Adventure Race participants in Florida, 2005. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;50(6):843-849.
Last reviewed May 2016 by David L. Horn, MD
Last Updated: 6/19/2014

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