Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial disease that occurs in animals and humans, which can sometimes be fatal.
Leptospirosis bacteria is present throughout the world and is regarded as the most widespread zoonotic disease in the world. These bacteria are generally transmitted when an animal or person comes into contact with contaminated water, soil or mud through broken skin or mucous membranes. In Kansas, leptospirosis has been seen increasingly because of the rainy weather that is favorable to the bacteria.
Dogs usually become infected with leptospirosis by walking through contaminated soil and water in lakes, rivers, streams and even puddles that have been contaminated by wildlife. Wildlife, such as rodents, opossums and raccoons, shed the bacteria through their urine. Most dogs that get leptospirosis live in rural areas and presumably have more contact with wild animals; however the disease has been increasingly seen in urban areas in recent years.
Farm animals, such as pigs, horses, sheep, goats and bison, can also become ill.
People are typically infected through exposure to contaminated soil or water through broken skin or mucous membranes, or through infected urine of their companion animals.
Illness in dogs usually presents with fever, lethargy and anorexia. Humans typically have a fever, headache, chills and muscle aches, but vomiting, jaundice and anemia are possible. Leptospirosis in both humans and animals can be treated with antibiotics and supportive care and is rarely fatal, but can result in kidney and liver failure and Weil’s disease in people.
People with increased risk of contracting leptospirosis include veterinarians and animal workers, sewer workers, miners, slaughterhouse workers, fishermen, farmers and military personnel. Participating in outdoor activities such as swimming, rafting and kayaking also increases risk.
Leptospirosis can be prevented with a few simple steps:
- Contact a veterinarian about vaccination against leptospirosis.
- Avoid contact with soil and water that could be contaminated with animal urine.
- Avoid contact with animal urine or body fluids, especially if there are cuts on the skin.
- Do not swim in, walk in or swallow water that may contain animal urine.
- Wear protective clothing or footwear near soil and water that may be contaminated with animal urine.
Leptospirosis is a world-wide zoonotic disease with an overall low incident rate in the United States and Kansas, however, it can be prevented with simple steps such as vaccination in dogs and limiting contact with contaminated soil and water.