Know the basics

What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is an infection caused by corkscrew- shaped bacteria called Leptospira interrogans. Leptospirosis contains the urine, blood, or tissue of animals or rodents, you can contract leptospirosis by contacting these infected sources. You can also contract it from contact with contaminated soil or water, wet soil or vegetation contaminated by the urine of infected animals, especially:

  • Cattle;
  • Pigs;
  • Dogs;
  • Reptiles and amphibians;
  • Rats and other rodents, which are the most important reservoir for the bacteria.

Both domestic and wild animals can carry leptospirosis and they pass the bacteria in their urine.

Without treatment, leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.

There are two periods of the growth of leptospirosis: incubation and infectious period.

  • Incubation period. It is the time between becoming infected and developing symptoms. This happens within 10 days, with a range of 2 to 26 days.
  • Infectious period. It is the 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.

How common is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of leptospirosis?

The common symptoms of leptospirosis are the illness that often occurs in 2 phases.

First phase

The first phase, which usually lasts 5 to 7 days, begins suddenly with symptoms including:

  • High fever;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Red eyes;
  • Muscle aches (especially thigh and calf muscles);
  • Rash;
  • Chills;
  • Headache.

Second phase

The second phase of illness (immune phase) may follow 1 to 2 weeks later, with symptoms such as:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes);
  • Kidney failure;
  • Irregular heart beat;
  • Lung problems;
  • Meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain);
  • Red eyes.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is caused by Leptospira bacteria. If you develop a severe infection, it’s known as Weil’s disease.

You can become infected with the bacteria if your eyes, mouth, nose, or open cuts on your skin contact with:

  • Urine, blood, or tissue from an animal that carries the bacteria;
  • Water that’s contaminated with the bacteria;
  • Soil that’s contaminated with the bacteria;
  • You can also contract leptospirosis if you’re bitten by an animal that is infected by it.

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. Person-to-person transmission does not occur.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for leptospirosis?

There are many risk factors for leptospirosis, such as:

  • People who work outdoors or with animals: farmers, veterinarians, butchers, sewer workers, abattoir workers, etc.
  • Campers.
  • Soldiers.
  • Miners.
  • People who bathe in fresh water lakes, rivers, or canals.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is leptospirosis diagnosed?

Your doctor might ask about your medical history and the risk factor you have. Tell your doctor if you:

  • Have recently travelled;
  • Have participated in water sports;
  • Have come in contact with a freshwater source;
  • Have an occupation that involves working with animals or animal products.

If your doctor suspects you may have leptospirosis or another bacterial infection, they may order blood tests, urine tests, or both.

In the case of Weil’s disease, your doctor may also perform imaging scans, such as chest X-rays, and more blood work to check your liver and kidney function. Besides, scans and tests can also help your doctor learn which of your organs may be infected.

How is leptospirosis treated?

Most cases of simple leptospirosis are mild and self-limiting, meaning they resolve on their own. In Weil’s cases, intravenous antibiotics and hospitalization are recommended by your doctor. You may also receive additional treatments, depending on your symptoms and which organs are affected. For example, if you’re having trouble breathing, you may be connected to a ventilator. If your kidneys have been infected and damaged, you may need to undergo dialysis.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage leptospirosis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with leptospirosis:

  • Vaccines for animals. However, these vaccines may only protect against certain forms ofLeptospira bacteria, and they may not provide long-term immunity.
  • Protect yourself from the risk of infection by wearing protective gear: waterproof shoes, goggles, gloves.
  • Avoid stagnant water and water from farm runoffs, and minimize animal contamination of food or food waste.
  • Set up a proper sanitation and rat control measures to help prevent the spread ofLeptospira 

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

Review Date: October 3, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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