What causes leptospirosis?

Leptospira bacteria cause leptospirosis. These bacteria are found in water, food or soil contaminated by infected animal urine, usually in warm and tropical climates. Animals that may be infected include cows, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents, and a variety of wild animals. Humans can become infected by drinking contaminated water and food, or when mucous membranes or broken skin come in contact with contaminated material. Leptospirosis is usually not transmitted from person to person.

What are the risk factors for leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis can occur in any age group, but a number of factors increase the risk of developing the disease. Risk factors for leptospirosis include:

  • Occupations with exposure to animals, such as farming, ranching, fishing, and veterinary industries

  • Participation in certain outdoor water sports or activities, such as swimming, boating, kayaking, water skiing, tubing, fishing, or wading in contaminated fresh water

  • Residence in warm or tropical climates, especially in developing countries where water may not be treated thoroughly

Reducing your risk of leptospirosis

You can lower your risk of developing leptospirosis by:

  • Avoiding areas of stagnant water or other potentially contaminated sources of water, especially in warm and tropical climates

  • Not drinking untreated freshwater from lakes, ponds, streams or rivers, which may be contaminated with infected animal urine

  • Seeking medical care if you have been in a high-risk situation, and taking preventive antibiotics exactly as directed. Antibiotics may include amoxicillin or doxycycline.

  • Wearing protective clothing and foot coverings when exposed to potentially contaminated soil or material during recreational or occupational activities, especially during travel to tropical climates.


What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a rare bacterial disease caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. Humans contract leptospirosis by swallowing contaminated water or food, or through contact with contaminated soil, water or food. Water, soil and food can become contaminated by mixing with animal urine that contains Leptospira bacteria.

Animals that can be infected with Leptospi... Read more about leptospirosisintroduction


What are the symptoms of leptospirosis?

Symptoms of leptospirosis develop anywhere from two to 26 days following exposure to Leptospira bacteria. The average time it takes to develop symptoms is 10 days. In some cases, there may be no symptoms of infection. Symptoms can be moderate to serious and even life-threatening in some cases.

Typical symptoms include Read more about leptospirosissymptoms


How is leptospirosistreated?

Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics work by killing bacteria or by stopping them from reproducing and spreading. Different types of antibiotics are effective for treating specific types of bacteria. Antibiotics used to treat leptospirosis include:

  • Amoxicillin (Amoxil)
    Read more about leptospirosistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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