Certain bacteria cause the infection. Animals that have it pass urine to water, soil, and plants. It then goes into your body by direct contact. This means though your bodily fluids, cuts in the skin, or by drinking it.
Leptospirosis occurs worldwide, but is most in common tropical places. Your risk is highest if you live in or travel to these places.
Your risk is also higher if you, or your pets or livestock play or work in or near contaminated soil, plants, or water such as with:
- Swimming or wading
- Boating, canoeing, or kayaking
- Caring for animals
- Working in sewers
- Working in the military
You may not have symptoms. If you do, you may have:
- Muscle aches
- Belly pain
- Red eyes
- Dry cough
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes— jaundice
Rare, but serious problems involve the lungs and kidneys.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, and health and travel history. You may have:
- A physical exam
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Chest x-rays
Care may start in a hospital. Antibiotics treat the infection. You may also need other care to support organ function, but this is rare.
To lower your chances of infection:
- Lessen time in soil, plants, or water where animals pass urine.
- Wear clothing that protects your skin, as well as waterproof boots or waders.
- Use bottled water. If you’re unsure if water is safe, don’t drink it or use it to wash food.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov
World Health Organization http://www.who.int
Alberta Health http://www.health.alberta.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada https://www.canada.ca
Ellis T, Imrie A, Katz AR, Effler PV. Underrecognition of leptospirosis during a dengue fever outbreak in Hawaii, 2001-2002. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2008;8(4):541-547.
Hartskeerl RA, Collares-Pereira M, Ellis WA. Emergence, control and re-emerging leptospirosis: dynamics of infection in the changing world. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2011;17(4):494-501.
Katz AR, Buchholz AE, Hinson K, Park SY, Effler PV. Leptospirosis in Hawaii, USA, 1999-2008. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(2):221-226.
Leptospirosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis. Updated October 30, 2017. Accessed May 22, 2018.
Leptospirosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116239/Leptospirosis . Updated September 20, 2017. Accessed May 22, 2018.
Leptospirosis (Weil's disease). New York State Department of Health website. Available at: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/leptospirosis/fact%5Fsheet.htm. Updated October 2011. Accessed May 22, 2018.
Stern EJ, Galloway R, Shadomy SV, et al. Outbreak of leptospirosis among Adventure Race participants in Florida, 2005. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;50(6):843-849.
- Reviewer: David L. Horn, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 05/2018
- Update Date: 05/22/2018