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.
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.
The following people are at an increased risk of developing leptospirosis:
- 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 typically appear about 10 days after infection and may include one or more of the following:
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
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include antibiotics, such as:
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.
- Reviewer: Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH; Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 05/11/2013 -