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NZVA urges farmers to vaccinate stock against leptospirosis at an early age

NZVA Media Release Friday 5 December 2014

 

Leptospirosis is a significant risk to New Zealand farmers and the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) continues to reinforce the message for farmers to vaccinate young stock against leptospirosis at an early age and to maintain protection through animal boosters. Dr Jenny Weston, President of the NZVA’s Society of Dairy Cattle Veterinarians says Leptospirosis is a highly infectious disease that can crossover from animals to humans. Farmers, veterinarians, and meat processors are most at risk of contracting it. “New Zealand has one of the highest rates of Leptospirosis infection in the world with 120 human cases reported each year. However, the rates may be even higher as there could be many more unreported cases, with recent research suggesting there could be up to 40-50 undiagnosed cases for every case that is reported.”

Dr Weston says many people who have contracted the disease mistake the symptoms for a bad dose of the flu. She urges people to seek medical attention to obtain the correct diagnosis and treatment. “It’s a serious illness which can be fatal.” Common practice has been to vaccinate calves at six months of age to stop them spreading the disease but recent evidence suggests that this needs to happen at the earlier age of three months, says Dr Weston. “Delaying vaccination can result in those animals, if exposed to infection, continuing to ‘shed’ - or pass leptospirosis organisms in their urine - when they're adults. The most critical aspect of leptospirosis control and vaccination is to stop animals shedding.”

The NZVA’s Leptosure® risk management programme ensures that farmers can be confident that they have taken all ‘practicable steps’ to prevent Leptospirosis infecting people on their dairy farms to keep them safe. Dr Weston suggests farmers seek expert advice from their local veterinarian and carefully consider the timing of vaccination, and, if the farm is a high risk farm, to vaccinate at an earlier age. She also advises that any spring-born calves be vaccinated before Christmas, and if they're going off the property, to ensure they're vaccinated before they leave. NZVA has worked closely over a number of years with others, including leptospirosis researchers at Massey University and with Rural Women NZ, to promote the importance of leptospirosis control.

About the Leptosure programme
Leptosure® is a national risk management programme developed by NZVA and the NZVA Society of Dairy Cattle Veterinarians to reduce the risk of human Leptospirosis infection on New Zealand dairy farms. The programme has recently been expanded to cover not only dairy cattle, but beef cattle, sheep and deer.

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