LEPTOSPIROSIS

 

Jae En Chung, M.D., Infectology Specialist.

 

Alternative names: Canine typhus, Stuttgart disease.

What is it?

Infectious disease with involvement of several organs of the body, caused by bacteria called Leptospira.

How is it acquired?

Rodents are the main reservoirs of the disease. Bovine, ovine and caprine cattle act as carriers.

Transmission occurs through contact with water or soil contaminated by these animals’ urine. Contamination between diseased people is quite rare.

What does one experience?

It may seem to be just a flu, with fever, aching in the body, coughing, headache, or it may trigger very severe infectious states that may lead to death if not diagnosed and treated on time.

The onset of the severe form of the disease may include swelling of the liver and spleen, bleeding through nose and mouth, strong muscular pains, especially in the calves, spots on the body, and even meningitis signs.

How does the doctor make the diagnosis?

Mainly based on patient report; the likelihood of previous contact with the urine from contaminated animals, associated to characteristic symptoms, suggests we investigate the disease.

There are specific blood and urine tests carried out by state laboratories accredited by the Health Ministry. As the result may take a while and due to the possibility of leptospirosis, doctors may start treatment even before the test result confirms the disease.

How is it treated?

It’s important to note that treatment is valid only if it’s begun until the fifth day of the disease onset, otherwise there’ll be no change in its development.

The antibiotic indicated for treatment is high-dose penicillin, or other antibiotic, if allergy is likely to occur.

Severely ill patients are indicated to be hospitalized due to the high mortality rates of this disease.

How is it prevented?

It’s a public health concern. Floods and rainstorms contribute, in tropical and subtropical countries, to man’s contact with waters contaminated with rodents’ urine, favoring outbreaks of the disease.

In Brazil, most cases are linked to the population’s life conditions.

Some professions are more prone to contact with the bacteria, such as veterinarians, fishermen, hunters, farmers, firefighters.

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