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.
- Reviewer: David L. Horn, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 05/2018 -
- Update Date: 05/22/2018 -