You've Got What?
How infectious diseases are spread and simple and practical advice for preventing the spread of infection in the home and community
Leptospirosis is an infection caused by corkscrew- shaped bacteria called Leptospira interrogans. The bacteria occur worldwide and many different serotypes are known. Serotype refers to groups of microorganisms that are extremely closely related, but can be distinguished by having slightly different antigens (a foreign substance which causes the body to produce antibodies) or causing the body to produce slightly different antibodies.
Leptospirosis is a notifiable condition1
People get leptospirosis by contact with fresh water, wet soil or vegetation contaminated by the urine of infected animals, especially:
Both domestic and wild animals can carry leptospirosis and they pass the bacteria in their urine.
The Leptospira bacteria can enter the body through broken skin, water-softened skin, mucous membranes (the thin moist lining of many parts of the body such as the nose, mouth, throat and genitals) or by swallowing or inhaling contaminated water.
Leptospirosis is an occupational hazard for many people working outdoors or with animals, such as:
Campers and people who participate in outdoor sports such as white water rafting, swimming or wading in contaminated lakes or rivers are also at risk.
Symptoms of infection with Leptospira may range from no symptoms to fatal disease. The illness often occurs in 2 phases.
The first phase, which usually lasts 5 to 7 days, begins suddenly with symptoms including:
A second phase of illness (immune phase) may follow 1 to 2 weeks later, with symptoms such as:
Diagnosis is difficult but is usually made by blood and urine tests. Early in the illness the Leptospira bacteria may be grown from blood or urine, though they take a long time to grow.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
Usually 10 days, with a range of 2 to 26 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
Infections are the result of contact with the urine of infected animals. Person-to-person transmission does not occur.
Effective antibiotic therapy is available. People with serious illness may require hospitalisation for treatment of complications such as kidney failure.
1 – In South Australia the law requires doctors and laboratories to report some infections or diseases to SA Health. These infections or diseases are commonly referred to as 'notifiable conditions'.