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by Kohnle D

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)

Definition

Leptospirosis is a rare bacterial infection that can be serious. The infection is caused by the bacterium called Leptospira.
Leptospirosis is most common in warm, tropical conditions. It also spreads easily. With prompt and proper treatment, prognosis is usually good. If untreated, complications may develop that can potentially be fatal.

Causes

Leptospirosis is caused by 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 bacterium has entered the body, it flows into the bloodstream and throughout the body, causing infection.

Risk Factors

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

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

Your doctor will ask 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

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include antibiotics, such as:
  • Penicillin
  • Tetracycline
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Erythromycin

Prevention

To help reduce your chances of getting leptospirosis, take the following steps:
  • 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 beginning antibiotic treatment before potential exposure.

RESOURCES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov

World Health Organization http://www.who.int

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Capital Health http://www.cdha.nshealth.ca

Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References

Ellis T, Imrie A, et al. 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, et al. 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, et al. Leptospirosis in Hawaii, USA, 1999-2008. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(2):221-226.

Leptospirosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis. Updated June 24, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2013.

Leptospirosis (Weil's disease). New York State Department of Health website. Available at: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/leptospirosis/fact%5Fsheet.htm. Updated October 2011. Accessed August 5, 2013.

Stern EJ, Galloway R, et al. Outbreak of leptospirosis among Adventure Race participants in Florida, 2005. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;50(6):843-849.

Revision Information

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