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How do people get leptospirosis?

  • Leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans through cuts and abrasions of the skin, or through the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth with water contaminated with the urine of infected animals. As animals are constantly in our environment, there is a particular danger of getting leptospirosis when flooding occurs, such as following a typhoon or very heavy seasonal rains, because of exposure to contaminated water when wading in floodwaters.
  • Leptospirosis can occasionally also be transmitted through the drinking of water or ingestion of food contaminated with urine of infected animals, often rats.
  • Human-to-human transmission occurs only very rarely.

(source World Health Organization)

Disease signs in people:

clinical leptospirosis may be present when suffering from flu-like signs without respiratory symptoms like 'running nose' or 'cough'. This means you should ask your GP to be tested for leptospirosis when you have severe head and body ache, painful hyper-sensitivity against light, fever and other typical signs resembling a flu. 

Did you know that... ?

... about 40% people in rural occupations (meat workers, vets, farmers etc.) remember they had flu-like disease in the preceding 12 months.

... about a quarter of these disease episodes may be attributable to infection with Leptospira, so the risk of getting ill with leptospirosis of someone working in close contact livestock is 1-3% every year.

... about 20% of all infections lead to clinical signs of flu-like illness.

... almost a quarter of all adult beef cattle, sheep and deer in NZ are likely to shed Leptospira.