Leptospirosis is an infection caused by bacteria from the genus Leptospira. People and animals that are infected with Leptospira shed the bacteria in their urine. People are exposed when broken skin or mucous membranes (nose, mouth, eyes) have contact with urine, or urine-contaminated water, from an infected person or animal. People infected with Leptospira may experience no illness, have flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, chills), or rarely develop severe impairment of kidney, liver, or other organs. Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics.
Leptospirosis is rare in California and most infected Californians are exposed in another state or country. The chances of getting leptospirosis can be greatly reduced by avoiding swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine. People who have contact with contaminated water or soil at work (e.g., farmers, sewer workers, veterinarians) or during recreation (e.g., swimmers, campers, fishing enthusiasts) are at greatest risk and should wear protective clothing or footwear. Dog owners should consult with their veterinarian about vaccinating their dog against Leptospira.