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Posted on 01-15-2014
The Dangers of Lepto
Dangerous things are sometimes boring to write or read about.
My colleague, Dr. Ontiveros, brow-beat me into focusing on LEPTOSPIROSIS when my turn came around to write a blog entry. You can blame her; I blame her for lots of other things too.
Leptospira is the parent name for a group of bacteria that those of you still reading have probably never heard about. The disease in humans is also called swineherd’s disease, rice field disease, or water-fever. Microbiologists find it interesting because it has a spiral shape with hooked ends. Pathologists find it interesting because it causes multiple organ damage to people and different types of animals. As a veterinarian and pet owner, I find it incredibly worrisome.
Lepto is very contagious and easy to contract:
• is shed in body fluids (those infected are biohazards!)
• bacteria can penetrate intact skin
• can cross mucus membranes
• survives in standing water
• survives well in soil
Lepto is a worldwide threat to people and animals:
• people (including pet owners and veterinary staff)
• wildlife (including raccoons, rodents)
• livestock (including cattle, pigs)
• dogs (apparently not cats!)
Lepto can be difficult to diagnose:
• specific lepto tests can be inconclusive when positive or negative
• symptoms can mimic any disorder causing kidney/liver disease
• subclinical and chronic carrier states can go undetected
Lepto cases are increasing in Texas including reported cases in Austin:
• we have a warm and wet enough climate to promote survival of this bacteria
• we have a dense population of susceptible and carrier animals
Now for some good news, sort of.
Dogs and livestock can be protected with vaccines. There are a few flaws with the current state of Lepto vaccines, however:
• not every vaccinated animal is vaccinated frequently enough (twice yearly)
• not every version (called a serovar) of Lepto is included in the vaccine
• not every “at risk” animal tolerates the vaccine
• not every veterinarian offers the vaccine
As the incidence of this disease increases, Lepto will become a more familiar word. In the meantime, talk with your veterinarian about the risk/benefit of vaccine protection.
Dr. Troy Smith
Manchaca Village Veterinary Care
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