Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira and affects humans and animals. Leptospira is common worldwide, especially in tropical areas with heavy rainfall, and can live for a long time in fresh water, damp soil, vegetation and mud. Flooding after heavy rainfall helps spread of the bacteria in the environment.
Common symptoms include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches and vomiting. Other symptoms including jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea or rash may also occur. If the disease is not treated, the patient could develop potentially fatal infections of the kidneys, liver, brain, lungs or heart and even death.
Mode of transmission
Humans become infected through contact with water, food or soil containing urine from infected animals, especially rodents. This may happen through skin contact, especially with mucosal surfaces, such as the eyes or nose, or with broken skin or by swallowing contaminated food or water. The disease can also be transmitted through rodent bites. Person-to-person transmission is rare.
High risk groups
People who work outdoors or with animals and people who participate in outdoor water sports such as swimming and wading in contaminated lakes and rivers have higher risks for the disease.
The incubation period is usually 5 to 14 days, with a range of 2 to 30 days.
Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics.