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leptospirosis(lĕp'təspīrō`sĭs), febrile disease caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospirae. The disease may affect dogs, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and horses and is also transmissible to humans. It is most common where the climate is warm and humid, soils are alkaline, and there is abundant surface water. The source of infection in farm animals is usually through pastures, drinking water, or feed, when contaminated by infected urine, and is often a work-related risk for farmers, sewer and slaughterhouse workers, and vetinarians. Infection may also occur as a result of contact with infected uterine discharges and aborted fetuses, with infected pets, or with contaminated water while swimming or during persistent flooding. In urban areas human infections may result from contact with rat urine.
In cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats, the disease is characterized by fever, depression, anemia, and abortion. Horses develop an ocular infection. In dogs the disease causes a severe kidney infection. In humans, typical symptoms include a dry cough, fever and chills, head and muscle aches, and nausea and diarrhea. It is treated with chloramphenicol, erythromycin, or other antibiotics; untreated, it may be life-threatening. Control of leptospirosis depends on the elimination of carrier animals, appropriate hygienic measures, and vaccination of susceptible animals.
An acute febrile disease of humans produced by spirochetes of many species of Leptospira. The incubation period is 6–15 days. Among the prominent features of the disease are fever, jaundice, muscle pains, headaches, hepatitis, albuminuria, and multiple small hemorrhages in the conjunctiva or skin. Meningeal involvement often occurs. The febrile illness subsides after 3–10 days. Fatal cases show hemorrhagic lesions in the kidney, liver, skin, muscles, and central nervous system.
Wild rodents are the principal reservoirs, although natural infection occurs in swine, cattle, horses, and dogs and may be transmitted to humans through these animals. Humans are infected either through contact with the urine or flesh of diseased animals, or indirectly by way of contaminated water or soil, the organisms entering the body through small breaks in the skin or mucous membrane.