What are the risk factors for Leptospira exposure?

Updated: Jul 08, 2021
  • Author: Sandra G Gompf, MD, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Although leptospirosis continues to be predominantly an occupational disease, in recent decades it has also increasingly been recognized as a disease of recreation. The disease may be acquired during "adventure racing," travel, or sporting events that involve fresh water or hiking (eg, "mud runs"). [5, 6, 7, 8, 9]  Urban dwellers in economically deprived areas may contract the disease through exposure to rat urine. [10]

The incidence of leptospirosis is rising in domestic dogs, especially those that live on dairy farms or roam in rural areas. Leptospirosis in a pet increases the risk of human transmission if there is contact with the urine, feces, birth products, or tissues of the animal. Other routine types of contact and care pose little risk. More exotic pets such as rodents have transmitted leptospirosis to owners, and reptiles can also act as chronic carriers.

Widespread flooding may lead to epidemic spread of leptospirosis in large populations. [11] Hurricanes in subtropical and tropical areas pose a risk of leptospirosis outbreaks. Flooding on a smaller scale may also lead to individuals contracting the disease. [12]   

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