Leptospirosis is a rare bacterial infection that is prevalent during the monsoon season. It is caused by a form of bacteria called spirochete. Leptospirosis occurs when humans come in direct contact with urine or waste secreted from infected animals, especially rodents, or through water, soil, or food contaminated with infected urine due to poor sanitation habits and hygiene.
In most cases of leptospirosis, the cases are unpleasant but not life-threatening. The severity is at par with a case of the common flu. The symptoms last for about seven to 10 days. However, leptospirosis can bounce back even after you just recovered. This is also called Weil’s disease which in addition can cause much more serious health issues, including chest pain and swollen arms and legs. It can also require hospitalisation in certain situations.
Causes of Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis is caused by a bacterium known as the Leptospira interrogans. The organism is carried primarily by animals and often in their kidneys. In turn this bacteria ends up in soil and water through the animal's urine and excrement, which then is transmitted to other animals and humans.
If a person is around soil or water where an infected animal has urinated, the germ can invade their body through breaks in the skin, like scratches and open wounds. The bacteria can also enter through the human body via the channels of nose, mouth, and/or genitals. Although, the bacteria is unlikely to transmit from one human to another but it can be passed through sexual activities and/or breastfeeding.
Here is a list of people and groups who are more prone to this infection and have the likeliness to pass on to others:
- Mine and underground workers
- Slaughterhouse workers
- Military personnel
Symptoms of Leptospirosis
Usually the infected start showing signs of leptospirosis within two weeks. Although, in some cases, symptoms may not show up at all for a month, Leptospirosis is mostly a fast acting disease. A person will get a fever which may even spike to 104 F. A few other typical symptoms of the infection are:
- Head and body ache
- Muscle ache
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Skin rashes
Treatment of Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis is primarily treated with antibiotics. Doctors may also recommend medication which will help with fever and muscle pain. However, in a severe case of leptospirosis, supportive care with renal replacement therapy, ventilatory support, and blood products may also be required to ease the symptoms.
Prevention of Leptospirosis
The first and foremost thing to implement is to avoid contaminated water. If you’re in a developing country, prefer not to drink the water unless you’re sure it’s clean. Since leptospirosis can enter through other body openings, it’s also a good idea to avoid swimming, water skiing, sailing, or fishing in freshwater areas. You may opt for saltwater as it is generally safer.
Keep away from infected animals, especially wild rats or rodents. Be aware of your surroundings while you travel and use a disinfectant frequently.