Leptospirosis is more common in tropical areas of the world.
Globally, it is estimated that 7-10 million people get leptospirosis every year. It is difficult to estimate exactly how many people die from leptospirosis because many cases occur in parts of the developing world where causes of death are not routinely reported.
It is anticipated that the number of cases of leptospirosis will continue to increase in the future as a result of global warming and the expected increase in flooding.
Leptospirosis is a type of bacterial infection spread by animals. It is caused by a strain of bacteria called leptospira.
In 90% of cases, leptospirosis only causes mild flu-like symptoms, such as headache, chills and muscle pain.
However, in some cases the infection is more severe and can cause life-threatening problems, including organ failure and internal bleeding. In its most severe form, leptospirosis is also known as Weil's disease.
The common mild symptoms mean that most leptospirosis infections are hard to diagnose. Diagnosis is easier if the infection causes more serious problems.
A detailed history of places you have been and any animals you have been in contact with can help with a diagnosis.
Leptospirosis is spread to humans by animals.
You can catch leptospirosis by touching soil or water contaminated with the urine of wild animals infected with the leptospira bacteria.
Animals known to be carriers of the leptospira bacteria include cattle, pigs, dogs and rodents, particularly rats.
Although the condition is uncommon in the UK, people who regularly deal with animals, such as farmers and vets, have a higher risk of developing leptospirosis.
You may also be at a higher risk if you frequently come into contact with sources of freshwater, such as rivers and lakes. This might be because of your occupation or through taking part in recreational activities such as water sports and fishing.
Transmission between humans is incredibly rare.
Most people with more severe leptospirosis will require admission to hospital so the functions of their body can be supported while the underlying infection is treated with injections of antibiotics.
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