These bacteria can be found in fresh water that has been soiled by animal urine. You may get infected if you come in contact with an infected animal. The infection occurs in warmer climates. Leptospirosis is not spread from person to person, except in very rare cases.
Risk factors include:
- Occupational exposure -- farmers, ranchers, slaughterhouse workers, trappers, veterinarians, loggers, sewer workers, rice field workers, and military personnel
- Recreational activities -- fresh water swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and trail biking in warm areas
- Household exposure -- pet dogs, domesticated livestock, rainwater catchment systems, and infected rodents
Weil disease is rare in the continental United States. Hawaii has the highest number of cases in the United States.
Leptospirosis is an infection. It occurs when you come in contact with leptospira bacteria.
Exams and Tests
The blood is tested for antibodies to the bacteria.
Other tests that may be done:
The outlook is generally good. However, a complicated case can be fatal if it is not treated promptly.
Complications may include:
- Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction when penicillin is given
- Severe bleeding
Avoid areas of stagnant water, especially in tropical climates. If you are exposed to a high risk area take precaution to avoid infection. You can take doxycycline or amoxicillin to decrease the risk.
Symptoms can take 2 to 26 days (average 10 days) to develop, and may include:
- Dry cough
- Muscle pain
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Shaking chills
Less common symptoms include:
Medicines to treat leptospirosis include:
Complicated or serious cases may need supportive care. You may need treatment in a hospital intensive care unit (ICU).
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your health care provider if you have any symptoms of, or risk factors for, leptospirosis.
Haake DA, Levett PN. Leptospira species (leptospirosis). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 241.
Muehlenbachs A, Zaki SR. Leptospirosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 323.