Commonly Infected Wildlife

Rats and other rodents, including large species such as beaver; also raccoon, deer, foxes, skunks, and other species.

Is This Animal Infected?

Infection in animals is not uncommon.

Most infected animals have no symptoms.

Can I Get It?

Yes, through contact with urine or tissues of infected animals, or water, soil, or vegetation contaminated by infected urine; or by consumption of food or drinking water contaminated by infected urine.

Exposure can be related to one’s occupation (working with wildlife) or recreational pursuits (swimming, caving, and so on).

Raccoons at water edge.
Raccoons are commonly infected with Leptospirosis
Jim Rathert

How bad can it get?

Illness ranges from no symptoms to severe disease. Leptospirosis can be fatal if not treated.

Symptoms in humans

  • Most people will not have symptoms.
  • If symptoms do occur, they can include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rash.
  • If untreated, symptoms can include kidney damage, liver failure, heart problems, hemorrhage, neurologic problems, and respiratory failure.
  • Fatalities may occur, but disease can be treated with antibiotics.

Protect Myself and Others

  • Wear disposable waterproof gloves when handling potentially infected animals or when working in potentially infected water (such as marshy or flooded areas).
  • Avoid contact of food and drinks with contaminated water, soil, or vegetation.
  • Wash hands thoroughly.

Safe for Pets?

No. Given the modes of transmission, it may be difficult to prevent pets from contracting it.

  • In severe cases, pets can die from leptospirosis.
  • Pets can also transfer the bacteria to humans.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about vaccines.

What Causes It?

Bacteria in the genus Leptospira.