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Health Alert: Leptospirosis Outbreak

leptospirosis outbreak
An ongoing outbreak of leptospirosis has affected over 40 dogs in Maricopa County.  To date, no human cases have been confirmed, but multiple illnesses are being investigated.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all.

Without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.

Leptospirosis Symptoms in Humans

Symptoms can be “flu-like” and include:
  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Chils
  • Muscle Aches
  • Vomiting
  • Red eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)

How To Get Infected

The bacteria that causes leptospirosis is spread through the urine of an infected animal, which can get into the water and soil. The bacteria is resilient and can survive for weeks to months. Rodents can carry and spread the bacteria that causes this disease.

Symptoms in Animals

There are NO symptoms of the disease when animals are infected.  Infected animals may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment continuously or sporadically for a few months and up to several years.

Humans can become infected through:

  • Contact with urine or other body fluids (except saliva) from infected animals
  • Contact with water, soil or food contaminated with the urine of the 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.

Timeline for Illness

The time between a person’s exposure to a contaminated source and becoming sick is 2 days to 4 weeks. Illness usually begins abruptly with fever and other symptoms. Leptospirosis may occur in two phases:
  • After the first phase (with fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhea) the patient may recover for a time but become ill again.
  • If a second phase occurs, it is more severe; the person may have kidney or liver failure or meningitis. This phase is also called Weil’s disease.
The illness lasts from a few days to 3 weeks or longer. Without treatment, recovery may take several months.


This disease is treated with antibiotics, such as doxycycline or penicillin, which should be given early in the course of the disease. For more severe symptoms, intravenous antibiotics may be required.
If you or anyone you know may be suffering from leptospirosis, come into a health care provider right away.

Treatment in Pets and Animals

Luckily, leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics. Please take your pet to see a veterinarian right away.