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HealthInfo Canterbury

Leptospirosis

farmer with border collie dogLeptospirosis is an infection caused by a bacteria (germ) called Leptospira. People catch it from contact with the urine or tissue of an infected animal, or through water or soil contaminated with this urine. It often gets in through cuts in a person's skin.

The animals infected with Leptospira may be wild (for example rats, mice, possums, and hedgehogs), farmed (for example cattle, pigs, and sheep) or even pet dogs.

Symptoms of leptospirosis are a lot like flu symptoms. They include a headache, fever, chills, and sore muscles. Occasionally it can cause a severe illness, with jaundice (yellowing of your skin and eyes) and liver and kidney failure.

Who is at risk?

Leptospirosis most often affects people who regularly work with animals, such as farm workers, meat handlers, and vets. Hunters, people who spend time in the wilderness, and people who do water sports can occasionally get it.

It is treated is with antibiotics, which clear most infections.

If you think you may have leptospirosis go to your GP for tests to confirm it.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. August 2017.

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Page reference: 427088

Review key: HILEP-427088