Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease associated with wild and domestic animals. It causes severe systemic symptoms including jaundice.

Disease Fact Sheet

Disease Facts

Leptospirosis is primarily an occupational disease that affects farmers, sewer workers or others whose occupation involves contact with animals, especially rats.

Leptospirosis is spread mainly by the urine of infected animals and is generally not transmitted form person to person.

The symptoms of leptospirosis are fever, headache, chills, vomiting, jaundice, anemia and sometimes rash. People with leptospirosis are usually quite ill and are often hospitalized.

The incubation period is usually 10 days with a range of four to 10 days.

The disease is diagnosed using specific blood tests available through public health laboratories.

There are several strains of the organism. Infection with one usually provides immunity to that organism but not to other strains.

The antibiotics of choice are penicillin, streptomycin, tetracycline and erythromycin. Kidney dialysis may be necessary.

If not treated, the patient could develop kidney damage. In rare cases, death may occur.

Disease prevention consists of good sanitation. The use of boots and gloves in hazardous places, rodent control and immunization of farm and pet animals can also minimize the risk of spread.


This material is provided by the South Dakota Department of Health for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical care. We are not able to answer personal medical questions. Please see your health care provider concerning appropriate care, treatment, or other medical advice.

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