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Gastrointestinal & Zoonoses

Leptospira

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Epidemiology

Leptospira spp. are excreted in the urine of infected animals and infection is acquired either directly or indirectly, through exposure to urine contaminated water or soil. Thus, those with occupational or recreational exposure, such as farmers, veterinarians, slaughterhouse workers, sewage workers, miners, soldiers, swimmers, sailors, divers etc. are at greatest risk. In the UK, the most commonly identified serovars of Leptospira are L. icterohaemorrhagiae (associated with rats) and L. hardjo (associated with cattle). Person-to-person spread is rare, and the disease is uncommon in the UK.

Main clinical features

The disease varies depending on the infecting serovar, although any serovar can cause many clinical presentations. All forms of leptospirosis start in a similar way: sudden-onset severe headache, muscle pains, conjunctival suffusion and fever, which may last for a week before subsiding. In some cases, the disease may persist or recur and progress to a more severe characterised by meningitis, renal failure, hepatitis and jaundice, myocarditis and death.

Incubation period

Usually 7 - 13 days, but can be as long as 19 days.

Surveillance

Voluntary laboratory reports.

Annual Surveillance Tables