Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that humans get from animals. Dogs, farm animals, and even rodents spread the disease. The animals in many cases do not show any symptoms, but can be the carriers.
A human can get the disease if he has an open wound that comes into contact with water or soil where animal urine is present. Sometimes the bacteria can even enter through your eyes or mucous membrane.
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So what are the symptoms of patients affected by Leptospirosis? Well, it is not always easy to diagnose Leptospirosis especially when it is in its initial stage because some of its symptoms are quite similar to other common infections like flu.
Nevertheless, some symptoms do confirm the presence of the infection especially when exposure to an infected animal’s urine is also known. In case you suspect the infection you must be aware of these symptoms because though not life-threatening, Leptospirosis can have recurring episodes. These recurring episodes of illness are termed Weil’s disease.
How do you contract Leptospirosis?
If you come into contact with soil or water where an animal infected with Leptospirosis has peed, you are vulnerable to the disease as the germ can invade your body. There are many ways by which germs can enter your body. This can be through breaks in your skin, such as scratches, open wounds, or dry areas. The germs can also enter through your nose, mouth, or genitals. It is not common and even difficult to contract the disease from another human, except through sex or breastfeeding.
What are the common Leptospirosis symptoms?
In humans, Leptospirosis symptoms can be many. These include:
- High Fever often accompanied by chills/sweating
- Muscle Aches
- Abdominal pain
- Red Eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Chest pain
- Vision problems
Patients have mentioned ‘crashing’ or collapsing, being unable to see or move, or remember anything before finding themselves in the hospital.
The clinical manifestations of Leptospirosis can be divided into four major categories:
- An influenza-like condition with fever and headaches. Most often the symptoms are mild.
- Weil’s syndrome which is characterized by jaundice, renal failure, haemorrhage, myocarditis, and arrhythmias.
- Meningitis/ /Meningoencephalitis
- Pulmonary haemorrhage along with respiratory failure.
What is the typical course Leptospirosis takes?
It is not unusual for people to mistake the Leptospirosis symptoms to be the symptoms of some other common diseases. It is also possible that some infected persons may have no symptoms at all. The time between a person’s exposure to a carrier and falling sick is 2 days to 4 weeks. Usually, the signs of the illness are seen with abrupt fever and other symptoms. Leptospirosis may occur in phases:
|Incubation Period (2-10 days)||Septicaemic phase (4-7 days)||Interphase (1-3 days)||Immune phase (0-30+d)|
|Bacteria enter the body through cuts and open wounds.||Sudden onset of fever, headache, muscle pain, nausea. At this phase, some contract jaundice.||Fever and other symptoms resolve temporarily.||Recurring fever and Central Nervous System (CNS) involvement. There is clearance from most tissues in the patient due to the presence of antileptospiral antibodies. However, Leptospires may continue to shed in the urine for a long period.|
What is the treatment to be taken by Patients suffering from Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics upon diagnosis. Two of the most common antibiotics for treating Leptospirosis are penicillin and doxycycline. Often, doctors advise patients to take ibuprofen for fever and muscle pain. Sometimes, antibiotics have to be injected into the body if the infection is more
What is the First Aid Treatment for Leptospirosis?
As soon as you feel, you have been exposed to carrier’s urine or infection is suspected, do the following:
- Dry off the urine splash straight away (Luckily, Leptospirosis bacteria tend to dry out easily), then wash the area.
- Wash out fresh or old cuts with water and disinfectant, and allow it to dry well.
- Splash your mouth and eyes, and any exposed skin, with lots of running water.
- Wash your hands and face well using soap and drying thoroughly.
- Take note of the incident and record it.
It is also advisable that you see a doctor within 24 hours of suspected exposure or if flu-like symptoms develop after suspected exposure. Do tell the doctor that leptospirosis may be the cause of your illness because some doctors may not be familiar with the symptoms or be able to diagnose the illness without knowing the full background.
How can you prevent contraction of Leptospirosis?
1. Avoid contaminated water– Don’t drink water from contaminated sources. You must always drink clean water. Leptospirosis can enter through your body openings. Therefore, sometimes one also contracts it while swimming, water-skiing, sailing, or fishing in freshwater areas that are contaminated. Saltwater is mostly safe.
2. Keep away from animals that have been infected – Rodents like rats are the main carriers of the bacteria that cause Leptospirosis. You must be careful if you have to handle rodents or come in contact with their habitat.
Farm animals too are carriers of the bacteria and therefore must be properly vaccinated to avoid the spread of the disease. If an animal is ill, you must avoid bites and exposure to their body fluids. However, the disease can’t be passed through the air like in the case of a common cold or even flu.
3. Be conscious of your surroundings, no matter where you– In countries with low levels of sanitation people are more vulnerable to leptospirosis. It is also hard to avoid transmission through its carriers. So, understand the symptoms and seek medical help if you become ill. Prevention is always better than cure.
1. What are the outcome of Leptospirosis in a pregnant woman?
Leptospirosis during pregnancy can cause foetal death, abortion, stillbirth or congenital leptospirosis. Congenital Leptospirosis is a rare condition though.
2. Why is it that Leptospirosis is often underdiagnosed?
Leptospirosis is often underdiagnosed due to the following reasons:
The diagnosis is difficult to confirm as it is easy to confuse Leptospirosis symptoms with other diseases. The disease is often mild and doesn’t undergo laboratory investigation.
Sometimes, laboratory tests may not be available or the available tests may have less sensitivity especially during the early phase of the disease.
3. What are the best antibiotics for treatment of Leptospirosis?
The severe cases of leptospirosis are treated with high doses of intravenous penicillin. The less serious cases can be treated with oral antibiotics such as amoxicillin, ampicillin, doxycycline or erythromycin. Third-generation cephalosporins, such as ceftriaxone and cefotaxime, and quinolone antibiotics are also used to cure Leptospirosis.
To conclude Leptospirosis poses a great risk to people working in close contact with animals or animal products. This disease is very common in European countries and New Zealand among farmers, veterinarians, and meat workers. People who work in contaminated environments like sewage, coal mines, fisheries etc. are vulnerable to contract the disease.
Death from leptospirosis infection is rare. Worldwide the overall fatality rate is approximately 1-5% but varies with the form of the disease, health status and age of the infected person.
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