This article is a summary of an article recently published in the Dairy Cattle Veterinarians’ newsletter.

  • In the 6 months Jan to June 2017, the number of reported human leptospirosis (lepto) cases increased 3 times to 91 cases vs 33 for the same period in 2016.
  • More than 2/3 of those people infected were hospitalised and many will suffer long-term effects. Females represent 18% of cases for 2017 (6% in 2016)
  • For the 61 cases where occupation was recorded, 36 (59%) worked on farms or had contact with livestock
  • The vaccination status of herds for 15 farm worker cases was known: 9 herds not vaccinated, 3 partly vaccinated, 3 fully vaccinated.
  • Of the 23 cases with no ‘occupational exposure’, 14 had contact with animals, and 10 with waterways

Lepto is a workplace hazard in the agricultural sector and is a serious disease caused by a bacteria which has several strains. People get lepto from contact with animal urine and contaminated water. The lepto bacteria gets into the body through
the nose, mouth, eyes, mucous membranes and through cuts and scratches. It attacks the liver and kidneys and can cause signs ranging from mild flulike symptoms (usually without a cough or runny nose) to sensitivity to light and jaundice to liver and kidney failure and death. Vaccination alone does not eliminate the risk: A nationwide study in 2016 looked at the effect of long-term vaccine use on 4000 dairy farms. On these farms, which had all been vaccinating dairy cattle, the vaccine was working against the strains the vaccine covers. However, lepto strains not included in the vaccine were found in cow urine on 1 in 4 farms. Vaccination is very effective at reducing infection and lepto being passed in urine but must be done before stock hit their first winter (2 shots for unvaccinated animals) and with a booster given every year. As we can’t cover every strain with vaccination and most animals can carry lepto there is always a risk of getting lepto. Here are a few things you can do to reduce the risk to yourself, your family and your employee’s and contractors. Minimise contact with urine from all animals Ensure vaccination of stock is up to date Vaccinate dogs against lepto (especially in the North Island) Control rats and mice, especially around supplementary feed

08 June 2018, 03:49