(Weil's Disease; Icterohemorrhagic Fever; Swineherd's Disease; Rice-Field Fever; Cane-Cutter Fever; Swamp Fever; Mud Fever; Hemorrhagic Jaundice; Stuttgart Disease; Canicola Fever)
Leptospirosis is an infection caused by bacteria. It can be mild or severe. Severe cases can lead to organ damage and even death.
Certain bacteria cause the infection. It is spread from the urine of infected animals. The urine gets into water, soil, and plants. The bacteria gets into the body from direct contact. This means from:
- Cuts in the skin
- The mouth, nose, and eyes
- Drinking contaminated water
Leptospirosis is found all over the world. It is most common in tropical places.
The risk is higher for those who have contact with:
- Infected animals
- Contaminated soil or water, such as with:
- Sewer work
- Working in the military
- Swimming or wading
- Boating, canoeing, or kayaking
Some people do not have symptoms. Those who do may have:
- Muscle aches
- Belly pain
- Red eyes
- Dry cough
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes— jaundice
Rarely, it can lead to problems with the lungs and kidneys.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, health, and travel history. A physical exam may be done. Blood and urine tests may be done to check for infection or other problems.
Other tests may be done to check for organ damage.
The infection is treated with antibiotics.
In rare but serious cases, treatment may be needed to support organ function.
The risk of infection can be lowered by:
- Avoiding soil, plants, or water where animals pass urine
- Wearing protective gloves and waterproof boots
- Using boiled or bottled water
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Alberta Health Services
Public Health Agency of Canada
Leptospirosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Leptospirosis. EBSCO DynaMed . Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/results?q=Leptospirosis&lang=en. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Leptospirosis (Weil's disease). New York State Department of Health website. Available at: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/leptospirosis/fact_sheet.htm. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Mousavi S, Nasera M, et al. Current advances in urban leptospirosis diagnosis. Reviews in Medical Microbiology. 2017;28 (3):119-123.
Last reviewed September 2020 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP Last Updated: 1/29/2021