Leptospirosis is brought about by species of Leptospira organisms that typically infects both wild and domestic animals. The bacteria are excreted via the urine of animals and capable of surviving in water or soil for weeks or even months.
Humans can become infected if exposed to contaminated water or soil often during activities such as swimming or canoeing in rivers or lakes. The bacteria can enter the body via skin wounds, swallowing contaminated water or via the eyes, nose or mouth. The time of exposure to the bacteria until the start of the illness is usually a week but can take up to a month.
What are the indications?
- Fever and chills
- Eye redness
- Muscle soreness in the back and calves
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Skin rash over the shins
The symptoms might last for 3-7 days. There is also a brief period where the fever settles, followed by a second period where it recurs along with any of the symptoms as well as increased inflammation of the eye, liver, lymph nodes and covering of the brain.
The rash might also worsen. There are certain times in which leptospirosis can be dangerous. If it is left untreated, certain complications can develop such as liver infection with yellowing of the eyes and skin, kidney failure, bleeding, erratic heart rhythms, meningitis and hemorrhagic pneumonitis.
Once a child has any symptoms of leptospirosis, a doctor must be consulted right away. In most cases, the condition is diagnosed with antibody testing of a blood sample.
The doctor will prescribe antibiotics to manage the condition. A mild infection can be managed using oral amoxicillin if younger than 8 years. The oral doxycycline is used for children age 8 years and older. In severe cases, hospitalization is required so that intravenous penicillin can be started.
The condition can last for a few days up to several weeks, but most children can recover fully. In some cases, though, some of the serious complications such as spinal cord or brain inflammation or even kidney damage can lead to lasting health issues. In rare occasions, death can also occur.
It is vital to implement and observe good hygiene habits. The child should always wash hands regularly and avoid direct exposure to the urine of pets and other animals.
The child should not play in and around dirty puddles of stagnant water outdoors. Even though there is a vaccine available to protect pets from leptospirosis, there is no approved vaccine for humans.