Leptospira is a corkscrew-shaped bacterium, commonly found in the urine of rats and mice. This bacterium is known to cause an infection known as leptospirosis. This bacterial infection is known to present itself in two stages. An infected person will experience the first phase and then go into an asymptomatic phase. With treatment, most cases will go away after the first phase. If the infection returns for the second phase, it will be considered a severe case and it will have symptoms that are a lot more serious.
How is it contracted by people?
This infection is transmitted when people come into contact with urine that is still moist. This happens when they are attempting to clean urine that rodents have left behind. It can also be contracted if a person eats food, drinks water, or comes in contact with soil that is contaminated with the urine. Even open cuts or sores on the skin can be a point of entry for the bacterium. It is not known to be spread person-to-person.
What are the symptoms?
There is an incubation period of between 7 and 12 days for the infection to present itself. It is important to seek medical treatment immediately if you believe that there is a possibility you have contracted leptospirosis. The symptoms of a mild case (phase 1), 90% are mild, include fever, chills, headache, muscle ache, abdominal pain, and red eyes.
With proper medical attention, this is the only phase that a person will experience, but in 10% of cases, it will go into phase 2. This phase is dangerous and is also referred to as Weil’s disease. It will bring about jaundice, kidney failure, and bleeding. It can even get to the point of causing meningitis, respiratory distress (due to bleeding in the lungs) and/or encephalitis.
How is it diagnosed and treated?
In the first 7 to 10 days of the time of infection, it is present in the blood or spinal fluid and a sample will need to be taken. After this period, a urine sample will be sufficient in order to detect the presence of the bacterium. Once it has been diagnosed, antibiotics are administered. In the mild cases, this is sufficient in helping the person to recover.
If the infection reaches phase 2, the treatment needs to be much more intense. The antibiotics will be given for the infection and then the other symptoms and complications will have to be treated depending on what organs are affected.
How can a person prevent exposure?
The best prevention is keeping the rodents from ever getting in in the first place. This may require the help of a professional in order to make sure that all bases are covered as far as points of entry and food sources. If they have been in, proper cleaning and avoiding contact with fresh urine is necessary.
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