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Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a type of bacterial infection that is spread by animals. It is caused by a strain of bacteria called Leptospira. The symptoms usually develop 7 to 14 days after exposure to the bacteria. There are two main types of Leptospirosis infection mild and severe. With a mild case you will develop flu-like symptoms like headache, chills and muscle pain. This type is the most common and accounts for 90% of reported cases. The mild symptoms will usually resolve within five to seven days.

Symptoms of mild Leptospirosis:

  • High temperature - between 38 and 40°C
  • Chills
  • Sudden headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • A non-itchy skin pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Conjunctivitis

A small number of people will go on to experience a further phase of more serious symptoms, known as severe Leptospirosis. The pattern of symptoms usually falls into one of three groups:

Liver, kidneys and heart

Symptoms include: jaundice, tiredness, nausea, loss of appetite, nose bleeds, swelling of liver. If this type is left untreated, your kidneys may lose the ability to function, resulting in kidney failure which can be fatal.

Brain

Symptoms include: meningitis, High temperature of 38°C, vomiting, seizures, stiff neck. If the infection of the brain is left untreated, it can cause brain damage, coma and death.

Lungs

Symptoms include: high temperature which can reach 40.5°C, shortness of breath, coughing up blood. If the leptospirosis infection spreads to the lungs, it is classed as the most serious health threat because it carries a significant risk of death.

In rare cases, it is possible to experience all three groups of symptoms at the same time.

Treatment

Mild types of this disease respond well to treatment with antibiotics and most will make a full recovery within a week. Severe cases require admission to hospital so your organs can be monitored and the infection treated with intravenous injections of antibiotics. The amount of time spent in hospital depends entirely on how well you respond to the antibiotics and the extent of damage to any organs. Some could be well enough to leave hospital within a few weeks, while others may require an additional few months of care.

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This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. Please read our medical disclaimer.