Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) - including symptoms, treatment and prevention
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
How leptospirosis is spread
People get leptospirosis by contact with fresh water, wet soil or vegetation contaminated by the urine of infected animals, especially:
rodents (for example rats and mice)
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.
Signs and symptoms of leptospirosis
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:
muscle aches (especially thigh and calf muscles)
A second phase of illness (immune phase) may follow 1 to 2 weeks later, with symptoms such as:
jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
irregular heart beat
meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain)
Diagnosis of leptospirosis
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.
Treatment for leptospirosis
Effective antibiotic therapy is available. People with serious illness may require hospitalisation for treatment of complications such as kidney failure.
Prevention of leptospirosis
Exclusion from childcare, preschool, school or work is not necessary.
Minimise contact with fresh water, mud and vegetation that might be contaminated with the urine of infected animals, especially rodents. Wear protective clothing, such as waterproof boots or waders, when participating in recreational or work activities that might result in such exposure.
Use of the information and data contained within this site or these pages is at your sole risk.
If you rely on the information on this site you are responsible for ensuring by independent verification its accuracy, currency or completeness.
This site includes links to other websites operated by community, business and government.
These linked websites will have their own terms and conditions of use and you should familiarise yourself with these.
All linked websites are linked 'as is' and the Government of South Australia:
does not sponsor, endorse or necessarily approve of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations regarding the quality, accuracy, merchantability or fitness for purpose of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations that material on other websites to which this site is linked does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any person anywhere in the world; and
does not authorise the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material in other websites by linking this site to those other websites.
If you use automatic language translation services in connection with this site you do so at your own risk.
The information and data on this site is subject to change without notice. The Government of South Australia may revise this disclaimer at any time by updating this posting.
The Government of South Australia, its agents, instrumentalities, officers and employees:
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy of the information and data contained on this site
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy or usefulness of any translation of the information on this site or any linked website into another language
make no representations as to the availability of the site and the availability of websites linked from or to the site
accept no liability however arising for any loss resulting from the use of the site and any information and data or reliance placed on it (including translated information and data)
make no representations, either expressed or implied, as to the suitability of the said information and data for any particular purpose
accepts no liability for any interference with or damage to a user's computer, software or data occurring in connection with or relating to this Site or its use or any website linked to this site
do not represent or warrant that applications or payments initiated through this site will in fact be received or made to the intended recipient. Users are advised to confirm the application or payment by other means.