200995 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Leptospirosis

    (Weil's Disease; Icterohemorrhagic Fever; Swineherd's Disease; Rice-Field Fever; Cane-Cutter Fever; Swamp Fever; Mud Fever; Hemorrhagic Jaundice; Stuttgart Disease; Canicola Fever)


    Leptospirosis is a rare and contagious bacterial infection that can be very serious. The infection is caused by the bacterium called Leptospira . Leptospirosis is most common in warm, tropical conditions and can affect any part of the body. With prompt and proper treatment, prognosis is usually good. If untreated, complications may develop that can potentially be fatal.


    Leptospirosis is caused by contact with fresh water, wet or dampened soil, or vegetation that has been soiled by urine from an infected animal.
    When contact is made with the contaminated material, the bacteria enter the body through open sores or wounds in the skin, or through mucous membranes. People can also contract leptospirosis by drinking water that has been contaminated by the urine of an infected animal.
    Once the bacterium has entered the body, it flows into the bloodstream and throughout the body, causing infection.

    Risk Factors

    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Anyone can contract leptospirosis, but the following people are at an increased risk of developing leptospirosis:
    • Canoeists
    • Rafters
    • Swimmers (in lakes, rivers, and streams)
    • Workers in flood plains
    • Workers in wet agricultural settings
    • People who have pets, particularly dogs or livestock
    • People who work with the land, including farmers, ranchers, loggers, and rice-field workers
    • People who work with animals, including veterinarians


    Symptoms typically appear about 10 days after infection and may include one or more of the following:
    • Sudden fever, rigors, pain, and headache
    • Dry cough
    • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
    • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
    • Aching joints
    • Sore throat
    • Painful bones
    • Abdominal pain
    • Enlarged spleen, liver, or lymph glands
    • Rigid muscles
    • Rash on the skin


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
    Tests may include the following:
    • Blood test to determine the presence of antibodies to the Leptospira bacterium
    • Cultures or other laboratory tests


    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
      Antibiotics, including:
      • Penicillin
      • Tetracycline
      • Chloramphenicol
      • Erythromycin


    To help reduce your chances of getting leptospirosis, take the following steps:
    • Reduce contact with soil, vegetation, and water that could possibly be contaminated with infected animal urine, including urine from rodents.
    • If working with materials that could potentially be contaminated, wear protective clothing that covers the skin, including waterproof boots or waders.
    • If working in an especially high-risk area, talk to your doctor about beginning antibiotic treatment before potential exposure.


    The Leptospirosis Information Center http://www.leptospirosis.org

    United States National Library of Medicine http://www.nlm.nih.gov/


    Canadian Health Network http://www.canadian-health-network.ca/

    Capital Health http://www.cdha.nshealth.ca/


    Ellis T, Imrie A, Katz AR, Effler PV. Underrecognition of leptospirosis during a dengue fever outbreak in Hawaii, 2001-2002. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis . 2008;8(4):541-7.

    Hartskeerl RA, Collares-Pereira M, Ellis WA. Emergence, control and re-emerging leptospirosis: dynamics of infection in the changing world. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2011;17(4):494-501.

    Katz AR, Buchholz AE, Hinson K, Park SY, Effler PV. Leptospirosis in Hawaii, USA, 1999-2008. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(2):221-226.

    Leptospirosis. Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/leptospirosis%5Fg.htm . Accessed April 19, 2007.

    Leptospirosis (Weil's disease). New York State Department of Health website. Available at: http://www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/communicable/leptospirosis/fact%5Fsheet.htm . Accessed April 19, 2007.

    MacAllister C. Leptospirosis. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service website. Available at: http://osuextra.okstate.edu/pdfs/F-9130web.pdf . Accessed April 19, 2007.

    Stern EJ, Galloway R, Shadomy SV, et al. Outbreak of leptospirosis among Adventure Race participants in Florida, 2005. Clin Infect Dis . 2010;50(6):843-9.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.