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Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all.

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.

Leptospirosis occurs worldwide, but is most common in temperate or tropical climates. It is an occupational hazard for many people who work outdoors or with animals, such as:

  • Farmers
  • Mine workers
  • Sewer workers 
  • Slaughterhouse workers
  • Veterinarians and animal caretakers
  • Fish workers
  • Dairy farmers 
  • Military personnel

The disease has also been associated with swimming, wading, kayaking, and rafting in contaminated lakes and rivers. As such, it is a recreational hazard for campers or those who participate in outdoor sports. The risk is likely greater for those who participate in these activities in tropical or temperate climates.

Leptospirosis is a reportable disease in Oklahoma.

  • Limit contact with water, mud, or vegetation that might be contaminated with the urine of infected animals, especially rats or mice.
  • Immunize dogs and farm animals against leptospirosis.
  • Prevent contamination of human living, working, and recreational areas with animal urine.
  • Persons in high-risk occupational groups should wear equipment, such as boots, aprons, gloves, and eye goggles to protect their eyes, nose, mouth, and skin from contacting infected animal tissue or urine.

Leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics prescribed by a physician. It is best to start treatment as early as possible.  Hospitalization and supportive care may be required for more serious cases.