What is Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by a
particular type of bacteria called a spirochete. Leptospirosis can
be transmitted by many animals such as rats, skunks, opossums,
raccoons, foxes, and other vermin. It is transmitted though
contact with infected soil or water.
The soil or water is contaminated with the waste products of an
infected animal. People contract the disease by either ingesting
contaminated food or water or by broken skin and mucous membrane
(eyes, nose, sinuses, mouth) contact with the contaminated water
are symptoms of leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis symptoms begin from two to 25 days after initial
direct exposure to the urine or tissue of an infected animal. This
can even occur via contaminated soil or water. Veterinarians, pet
shop owners, sewage workers, and farm employees are at
particularly high risk. People participating in outdoor sporting
activities like canoeing, rafting, hiking, and camping can also
come into contact with contaminated water or soil.
The illness typically progresses through two phases:
1) The first phase of nonspecific flulike symptoms includes
headaches, muscle aches, eye
pain with bright lights, followed by chills and fever.
Watering and redness of the eyes
occurs and symptoms seem to improve by the fifth to ninth
2) The second phase begins after a few days of feeling well. The
initial symptoms recur
with fever and aching with stiffness of the neck. Some patients
inflammation of the nerves to the eyes, brain, spinal column
(meningitis), or other nerves.
Right upper area abdominal pain may occur. Less common symptoms
relate to disease
of the liver, lungs, kidneys, and heart.
Leptospirosis associated with liver and kidney disease is called
Weil's syndrome and is characterized by yellowing of the eyes
(jaundice). Patients with Weil's syndrome can also develop kidney
disease and have more serious involvement of the organs affected
The treatment of leptospirosis involves high doses of antibiotics.
Antibiotic treatment (doxycycline, penicillin) is most effective
when initiated early in the course of the illness. Severely ill
patients may need hospitalization for IV fluid and antibiotic
treatment. Severe liver and kidney manifestations of the infection
may require intensive medical care and sometimes dialysis
treatment. However, even in severe cases, liver and kidney
function often does return after recovery from the illness.
Mortality rates for severe illness with leptospirosis can range
from 5%-40%, depending on the severity of organ dysfunction and
the patient's general health prior to infection. Most previously
healthy patients will make a full recovery.
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