(Weil's Disease; Icterohemorrhagic Fever; Swineherd's Disease; Rice-Field Fever; Cane-Cutter Fever; Swamp Fever; Mud Fever; Hemorrhagic Jaundice; Stuttgart Disease; Canicola Fever)
Leptospirosis is a rare, but potentially serious, bacterial infection. It is most common in warm, tropical conditions, and it spreads easily.
With prompt and proper treatment, prognosis is usually good. If untreated, complications may develop that can potentially be fatal.
Leptospirosis is caused by specific bacteria resulting from contact with fresh water, wet or dampened soil, or vegetation that has been soiled by urine from an infected animal.
When contact is made with the contaminated material, the bacteria enter the body through open sores or wounds in the skin, or through mucous membranes. When the bacteria has entered the body, it flows into the bloodstream and throughout the body, causing infection.
The following people are at an increased risk of developing leptospirosis:
- Swimmers in lakes, rivers, and streams
- Workers in flood plains
- Workers in wet agricultural settings
- People who have pets, particularly dogs or livestock
- People who work with the land, including farmers, ranchers, loggers, and rice-field workers
- People who work with animals, including veterinarians
Symptoms typically appear about 10 days after infection and may include one or more of the following:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood tests
- Cultures or other laboratory tests
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include antibiotics. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary.
To help reduce your chances of getting leptospirosis:
- Reduce contact with soil, vegetation, and water that could possibly be contaminated with infected animal urine, including urine from rodents.
- If working with materials that could potentially be contaminated, wear protective clothing that covers the skin, including waterproof boots or waders.
- If working in an especially high-risk area, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Ellis T, Imrie A, et al. 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, et al. 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, et al. Leptospirosis in Hawaii, USA, 1999-2008. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(2):221-226.
Leptospirosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis. Updated March 28, 2014. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Leptospirosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 27, 2012. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Leptospirosis (Weil's disease). New York State Department of Health website. Available at: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/leptospirosis/fact_sheet.htm. Updated October 2011. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Stern EJ, Galloway R, et al. Outbreak of leptospirosis among Adventure Race participants in Florida, 2005. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;50(6):843-849.
Last reviewed May 2014 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.