Leptospirosis

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Overview

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all.

Without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.









Symptoms

In humans, Leptospirosis can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

High fever

Headache

Chills

Muscle aches

Vomiting

Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)

Red eyes

Abdominal pain

Diarrhea

Rash

Image of sick person. 

Many of these symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases. In addition, some infected persons may have no symptoms at all.

Causes

Leptospirosis is caused by a bacterium called Leptospira interrogans. The organism is carried by many animals and lives in their kidneys. It ends up in soil and water through their urine.

If you’re around soil or water where an infected animal has peed, the germ can invade your body through breaks in your skin, like scratches, open wounds, or dry areas. It can also enter through your nose, mouth, or genitals. It’s hard to get it from another human, though it can be passed through sex or breastfeeding.

You’re at risk if you spend a lot of time around animals or in the outdoors. You’re more likely to be exposed to it if you have one of these jobs:

Farmer

Veterinarian

Underground worker (you work in a sewer or a mine)

Slaughterhouse worker

Military personnel

Also, if you raft, swim, or camp near affected lakes and rivers, you could get the disease.

Leptospirosis is more often found in warm climates. And although the bacteria lives all over the world, it’s especially common in Australia, Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.


Risk factors

Leptospirosis occurs worldwide, but is most common in temperate or tropical climates. It is an occupational hazard for many people who work outdoors or with animals, such as:

Farmers

Mine workers

Sewer workers

Slaughterhouse workers

Veterinarians and animal caretakers

Fish workers

Dairy farmers

Military personnel

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Complications

Without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.

Prevention

The risk of acquiring leptospirosis can be greatly reduced by not swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine, or eliminating contact with potentially infected animals.

Protective clothing or footwear should be worn by those exposed to contaminated water or soil because of their job or recreational activities.

Avoid touching fresh water or soil that may be contaminated with animal urine.

Avoid touching objects that may be contaminated with animal urine, such as animal bedding.

Don't wade, swim, or put your head in floodwaters or water from lakes, rivers, or swamps.