Hurricane Katrina and Leptospirosis Infection

What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is an infection of both humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria called Leptospira.

What are leptospirosis symptoms?

In humans it causes a wide range of symptoms. Some infected persons may have no symptoms. Others may have the following symptoms:

In severe cases, people may have jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) from liver failure. Severe disease may also cause kidney damage and respiratory distress. In rare cases death occurs.

Many of these symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases. Leptospirosis is confirmed by testing of a blood or urine sample.

How do people get leptospirosis?

People get leptospirosis from exposure to infected animals. They can also be infected when exposed to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals.

Many different kinds of animals carry Leptospira. Animals may carry the bacterium but have no symptoms. Leptospira have been found in cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents, and wild animals. The disease is not spread from person to person.

In Louisiana, leptospirosis occurs in cattle, skunks, and nutria (large rodents). Urban leptospirosis caused by exposure to rats occurs in the U.S.

How long is it between the time of exposure and when people become sick?