The deadly Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a very commonly encountered infectious disease which is zoonotic(spread to humans from animals).It is prone for deadly complications and makes it one of those diseases which warrant major concern.If left untreated,it can lead to widespread complications such as kidney damage,liver failure,brain damage,respiratory difficulties and even death.

How does the infection occur?

It is a bacterial infection and is spread through the urine of infected animals-either when in direct contact with the infected animals or when in contact with water,soil or food contaminated by them where it can survive for long. Many animals are implicated in the spread though the most commonly encountered ones are:

  • Rodents(rats particularly)

  • Cattle

  • Pig

  • Horses

  • Wild animals.

It has to be remembered that the infected animals might not show any symptoms at the outset!

The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection. Outbreaks of leptospirosis are usually caused by exposure to contaminated water, such as floodwaters.

Person to person transmission is rare.

Clinical features

Usually the symptoms start becoming evident in a few days to weeks.The common symptoms are:

  1. High fever with chills

  2. Headache

  3. Jaundice

  4. Muscle aches

  5. Abdominal pain

  6. Decreased urine output

  7. Fatigue and lethargy.


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Who are at increased risk?

Some occupations are at high risk of causation due to their exposure.These are but not limited to:

  • Farmers

  • Sewer workers

  • Slaughterhouse workers

  • Veterinarians

  • Dairy farmers

  • Contact with water bodies: It is considered as a recreational hazard as well.The disease is found to be associated with swimming,kayaking,rafting etc.

  • Volunteers during environmental disasters particularly in relation to floods and rains particularly in tropical or temperate climates. After floods or heavy rains, anyone who has been in contact with floodwater, contaminated freshwater (rivers and streams) or soil could be at risk for infection.

What to do if I have a history mentioned above and I now have fever with other characteristic symptoms?

Visit your physician as early as possible.Lab investigations can fairly make out possible diagnoses as well as the severity of illness so that adequate treatment can be initiated on time.

Treatment

Antibiotics are the mainstay and these include penicillins and doxycycline.If other organ systems have been affected such as liver and kidneys,close monitoring and observation with prolonged hospital stays are required.

Prevention

Prevention is better than cure and leptospirosis is the best example for this statement!The risk of acquiring this deadly infection can be minimised by avoiding contact with potentially contaminated water sources.If your pet is suspected of the disease,try to refrain physiclaly from it.Protective clothing and equipments including footwears must be strictly used by all those who are at risk of contact with infected sources,such as volunteers for flood relief works.Doxycycline is given as prophylaxis for these people.

Contact your health care provider for the same.


What should be done if I suspect my pet animal to have contracted the disease?

Take your pet to the veterinarian doctor.If leptospirosis is confirmed,follow the advices and try to avoid contact with the pet for the safe period advocated by the vet.

If you have a doubtful exposure to contaminated water source and/or contact with a possible infected animal,visit your doctor as soon as possible for your safety.

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