Contracting Lepto - How bad is it?

Dairy farmer cleaning the cowshed

Dairy cattle have been vaccinated for Leptospirosis to prevent disease in dairy farmers for years. This vaccination has largely been successful and, as a result, we don’t discuss it much. However, occasionally we hear of someone with the disease, and even being admitted to hospital, even ICU.  It is a serious disease and worryingly, the cases of leptospirosis in humans have increased since 2016.

But how often and how bad is it?

Recently a client had Leptospirosis and it brought home how much we need to protect ourselves from this disease. Not only was this farmer sick for over 5 weeks, (still not 100%) but it was during calving and the pressure it placed on team members at a busy time of year was immense. Interestingly, doctors do not know enough about the disease and getting the disease diagnosed and treated correctly quickly is difficult.

To help ourselves, vaccinating dairy herds and trying to keep cow and rat urine away from cuts and abrasions is the first step. The additional step is knowing what the signs can be so that if we go to see health professionals, we can advocate for ourselves.

It must be remembered that Leptospirosis can cause abortions. This means finding additional unvaccinated strains in dairy herds has me very nervous. I look at the Veterinary and supporting staff, farmers and their families and wonder how often it has caused a problem no one understands.

The above-mentioned client's symptoms

Hot and cold sweats with a general feeling of tiredness and the feeling of nausea. Back pain which can’t be controlled with pain relief. Headaches. Normal blood tests. Normal urine tests. Weight loss. Four visits to the doctor and afterhours medical clinics came away with nothing but pain relief for a bad back and the farmer feeling like the doctors thought he just wanted a sick note to get out of work.

Eventually, Lepto was sampled for, but the results took 2 weeks to come back. As rural working people we need to ensure we protect ourselves from leptospirosis but additionally know to ask for leptospirosis to be checked for at the first doctor visit.

Leptospirosis Pacifica has been noted to create flu-like symptoms in addition to headaches and fever. With Covid over the last four years, the diagnosis of fever and flu has been continually put down to Covid. The incidence of Lepto is unknown. The severity of cases varies, but it will be a disease you wish you didn’t get.

Dr Kris Brownlee BVSc

For more information on Lepto and the 4-way vaccination, follow the link


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