Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria that can be passed from infected animals to humans. In New York City, infected rats are the main source of leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis can enter the body through the eyes, nose, mouth, wounds or cuts in the skin. It can also be spread through exposure to outdoor freshwater or flood waters in tropical regions. People who have close contact with infected animals, especially rats, are at risk. Leptospirosis is not usually spread by people.
People can become sick between two days and four weeks after exposure. Some people who are infected may have no symptoms, while others may have a mild illness with fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting or diarrhea. Rarely, people who are infected may develop a life-threatening illness that affects their kidneys and liver.
See a doctor if you think you may be infected with leptospirosis. Your doctor may take blood tests and start treatment with antibiotics, such as doxycycline or penicillin.
Dogs can also get leptospirosis. Ask your veterinarian if your dog needs to be vaccinated. Signs that your dog may have the disease include fatigue, loss of appetite and vomiting. For more information about leptospirosis in dogs, read Leptospirosis Factsheet for Dog Owners (PDF)
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Leptospirosis is not very common in NYC. An average of three human cases of leptospirosis are reported in the city each year. There may be additional cases that go undiagnosed because symptoms range and can be minor. Cases of leptospirosis are also reported in dogs. Click here to learn more.