Many different kinds of animals can carry the bacteria, but it is most commonly associated with:
- rats and mice
- farm animals, such as pigs, cattle, horses and sheep
An animal carrying the leptospira bacteria may show no outward signs of illness. The bacteria live inside the animal's kidneys and can be passed out in their urine. Bacteria can survive for several weeks, and even months, when it's passed into soil or water.
You can become infected with the leptospira bacteria if contaminated water or soil comes into contact with your eyes, mouth, nose, or any open cuts in the skin.
The bacteria can also be spread through rodent bites or by drinking contaminated water. Less commonly, it can be passed to humans who come into close physical contact with the blood or tissues of an infected animal.
Outbreaks of leptospirosis can also occur, particularly at events that involve close contact with infected water, such as some water sports, or after a flood.
It's extremely rare for it to be passed from human to human, but it may be possible during sex, or by an infected mother passing it on to her baby
Symptoms of leptospirosisThe symptoms of leptospirosis usually develop suddenly around 7 to 14 days after exposure to the leptospira bacteria.
However, it is possible for symptoms to develop from between 2 and 30 days after exposure.
About 90% of leptospirosis infections only cause mild symptoms, including:
- a high temperature (fever) that is usually between 38C and 40C (100.4-104-F)
- sudden headaches
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- muscle pain, particularly affecting the muscles in the calves and lower back
- conjunctivitis (irritation and redness of the eyes)
- a short-lived rash
The risk of acquiring leptospirosis can be greatly reduced by not swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine, or eliminating contact with potentially infected animals.
Protective clothing or footwear should be worn by those exposed to contaminated water or soil because of their job or recreational activities.Those who contacted flood waters should wash their legs by using soap to avoid getting leptospirosis.