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Take Precautions Against Leptospirosis

By on May 5, 2019

Clifton Health Department Reminds Residents To….

CLIFTON, NJ – The Clifton Health Deparment is issuing a reminder to residents to be mindful of and to protect themselves and their pets against leptospirosis .  Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects both humans and animals. The bacteria that cause leptospirosis are spread through the urine of infected animals, which can get into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months. Many different kinds of wild and domestic animals carry the bacteria, which include, but are not limited to: dogs, horses, cattle, and rodents. Animals infected with the bacteria usually do not show symptoms, but may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment continuously or every once in a while for a few months up to several years.

It’s important to understand that humans can also become infected, specifically through contact with urine (or other body fluids, except saliva) from infected animals; contact with water, soil, or food contaminated with the urine of infected animals. The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection. Person to person transmission is rare.

In humans, leptospirosis can cause a wide range of symptoms, including: high fever, headache, chills, muscle pains, vomiting, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and a rash.  Usually, the time before a person’s exposure to a contaminated source and becoming sick ranges anywhere from 2 days to 4 weeks.

For humans, the disease has been associated with swimming, wading, kayaking, and rafting in contaminated lakes and rivers. The risk is greater for those who participate in these activities in tropical or temperate climates. The risk of being exposed to leptospirosis can be greatly reduced by not swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine, or eliminating contact with potentially infected animals. Protective clothing or footwear should be worn by those exposed to contaminated water or soil because of their job or recreational activities.

To help prevent leptospirosis infection in pets, be sure to keep rodent problems under control. Rodents can carry and spread the bacteria that causes this disease. It is also important to make sure your pet is vaccinated against leptospirosis. The vaccine does not provide 100% protection. This is because there are many strains of the bacteria that causes Leptospirosis, and the vaccine does not provide immunity against all strains.

Be sure to follow the below prevention guidelines to further reduce your risk of being exposed to leptospirosis:

  • Do not handle or come in contact with urine, blood, or tissues from your infected pet before it has received proper treatment.
  • If you need to have contact with animal tissues or urine, wear protective clothing, such as gloves and boots, especially if you are occupationally at risk (veterinarians, farm workers, and sewer workers).
  • As a general rule, always wash your hands after handling your pet or anything that might have your pet’s excrement on it.
  • If you are cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated or have urine from an infected pet on them, use an antibacterial cleaning solution or a solution of 1 part household bleach in 10 parts water.
  • Make sure that your infected pet takes all of its medicine and follow up with your veterinarian.

The Clifton Health Department is a contractual health agency serving the Township of Little Falls.