Leptospirosis in Humans: Hurricanes Increase Risk

On October 12, it was reported that 10 people in Puerto Rico have suspected cases of Leptospirosis. Smart dog owners might recognize this disease as one of their dogs are vaccinated against. So why are human cases being reported?

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis (known to vets by the short-hand “lepto”) is a disease caused by being infected with the Leptospira bacteria. It’s an infection that dogs (and rarely, cats) can get by being around water – but with the recent hurricane damage in the U.S., we’re hearing more about lepto in humans.

Leptospira bacteria live in stagnant or slow-moving water, or along the banks of streams and rivers. People and dogs are more at risk to contract the bacteria if they have cuts or scrapes and are exposed to infected water or infected animal urine. People can also contract lepto by being around farm animals, rodents or pets who have been around the stagnant water. Hence, with the flooded streets like those in Houston and Puerto Rico after this fall’s hurricanes, cases of leptospirosis are more possible.

What are the symptoms of leptospirosis?

Symptoms of Leptospirosis in humans are include headache, muscle aches, high fever, chills, and diarrhea or vomiting. More extreme cases can lead to kidney or liver disease (this phase of the infection is called Weil’s Disease). Since these symptoms can mimic other disease, it’s important to tell your doctor if you’ve spent time in flood waters, had to drink stagnant or flooded waters, wade through or swam in lakes or streams, or if your dog has had the infection or possibly been exposed as well.

How can I stay safe?

The best way to keep your dog and family safe is to get a leptospirosis vaccination for your dogs. If your dog will spend much of the summer roaming free and playing in water, or if your pets have been or may be exposed to flood waters, we highly recommend the “Lepto Vaccination.” One shot protects your dog for 12 months unless they has never had the vaccine before. If this is the case, the vaccine must be boosted after 2 to 3 weeks.

Additionally, to help protect your family and dog from illness:

  • Drink only fresh, clean water (bottled water in flood zones).
  • Keep your family and dog away from wild animals and farm animals
  • Avoid dirty, standing water
  • Keep your dog away from other infected dogs and away from places where other dogs urinate regularly

If you’d like to get your dog vaccinated, have any questions, or are concerned about your dog’s health, please schedule an appointment at Animal Clinic of Woodruff right away. If you suspect you or your family may have been exposed to Leptospira, make an appointment with your doctor right away.

Posted in Prevention Health | Vaccinations

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