Leptospirosis is an infection of humans and animals caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. Although two species are recognised (L. interrogans and L. biflexa), L. interrogans is most commonly associated with human and animal disease. Leptospira spp. infect a variety of animals (both wild and domestic) which then shed the bacteria in their urine, resulting in a contaminated environment. While person-to-person infection is rare, humans can contract leptospirosis directly from infected animals or indirectly through contaminated soil, water or food. Leptospirosis is an occupational hazard for farmers, veterinarians, abattoir and meat workers/handlers, fish farmers and people who work with river water, or sewers. Leptospirosis is increasingly associated with leisure activities such as golf (retrieving balls from stagnant pools) and water sports.
Leptospirosis in humans can result in flu-like symptoms including fever, myalgia, conjunctivitis, stiffness in the neck, nausea and vomiting. Some people can develop meningitis, and in about 10% of cases a more severe form of the disease known as Weil’s disease develops, which can be fatal.