Leptospirosis is caused by a bacterium called Leptospira.
Leptospirosis occurs when:
· people with cuts or abraded skin come into contact with water or soil that is contaminated with infected animal urine (for example, swimming, wading, boating or taking part in other recreational activities in water that may be contaminated with urine of infected animals)
· farm workers come into direct contact with the body fluids of infected pregnant animals while aiding in birthing
· contaminated aerosols are inhaled or contaminated water or fluids come into contact with the eyes or nose
· the bacteria are ingested through contaminated drinking water or food (for example, drinking untreated water from lakes, streams or rivers)
Animals known to carry or be infected with Leptospira include:
· rats and other rodents
Leptospirosis is most common in people who work outdoors or with animals, including:
· livestock farmers
· farmers working in sugar cane fields
· sewage workers
· veterinary staff
· abattoir workers
· fish farmers
Leptospirosis also occurs in adventure racers who swim or wade through contaminated water.
Dogs and other animals can get leptospirosis through drinking, swimming or walking through contaminated water or coming into contact with infected wildlife. Cats seem less prone to infection.
Leptospirosis is not transmitted from person to person.