Leptospirosis is a rare and contagious bacterial infection that can be very serious. The infection is caused by the bacterium called Leptospira . Leptospirosis is most common in warm, tropical conditions and can affect any part of the body. 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. People can also contract leptospirosis by drinking water that has been contaminated by the urine of an infected animal.
Once the bacterium has entered the body, it flows into the bloodstream and throughout the body, causing infection.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Anyone can contract leptospirosis, but the following people are at an increased risk of developing leptospirosis:
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, and perform a physical exam.
Tests may include the following:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
To help reduce your chances of getting leptospirosis, take the following steps:
The Leptospirosis Information Center
United States National Library of Medicine
Canadian Health Network
Ellis T, Imrie A, Katz AR, Effler PV. Underrecognition of leptospirosis during a dengue fever outbreak in Hawaii, 2001-2002. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis . 2008;8(4):541-7.
Hartskeerl RA, Collares-Pereira M, Ellis WA. 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, Hinson K, Park SY, Effler PV. Leptospirosis in Hawaii, USA, 1999-2008. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(2):221-226.
Leptospirosis. Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/leptospirosis_g.htm . Accessed April 19, 2007.
Leptospirosis (Weil's disease). New York State Department of Health website. Available at: http://www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/communicable/leptospirosis/fact_sheet.htm . Accessed April 19, 2007.
MacAllister C. Leptospirosis. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service website. Available at: http://osuextra.okstate.edu/pdfs/F-9130web.pdf . Accessed April 19, 2007.
Stern EJ, Galloway R, Shadomy SV, et al. Outbreak of leptospirosis among Adventure Race participants in Florida, 2005. Clin Infect Dis . 2010;50(6):843-9.
Last reviewed December 2011 by Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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