In an effort to inform and protect farmers, researchers at New Zealand’s Massey University created a 7-part Leptospirosis video series, which is available for free on their You Tube page.


The series was developed by an internationally-recognised team led by academics from the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences alongside staff from the School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing. The institute team includes world leaders in leptospirosis disease and diagnosis research Dr Jackie Benschop, Dr Julie-Collins-Emerson, Professor Cord Heuer and Professor Peter Wilson.

Dr Benschop says the video is important because so many cases of leptospirosis are going unnoticed. The estimated total number of cases is about 43 times higher than the number of notified cases, due to misdiagnosis or issues with accuracy of lab testing. It is also a very complex disease, with multiple strains and hosts as well as an environmental component. “There is a lot going on and we’re very passionate about it,” she says.

Each of the 7 episodes last less than 7 minutes.

Episode 1 features an introduction to leptospirosis

Episode 2 features first hand accounts of people that have had the bacterial disease

Episode 3 looks at the effects on animals

Episode 4 talks about the spread of leptospirosis

Episode 5  goes into more detail about how Leptospirosis is diagnosed in both humans and animals

Episode 6 talks about the prevention and control of Leptospirosis

Episode 7 looks at the future of leptospirosis diagnostics, vaccinations and more

Leptospirosis is a bacterial zoonotic disease caused by the corkscrew shaped organism, Leptospira. It goes by several other names depending on the locale; mud fever, swamp fever, sugar cane and Fort Bragg fever, among others. It is a disease of both humans and animals.

The rat is the main host to Leptospira. However, other animals such as cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents, and wild animals can carry the bacterium.

People become infected by direct or indirect contact with the urine of these animals. Contact with urine-contaminated water is extremely important. Contaminated food and soil containing animal urine are other potential sources of infection.

The bacterium enters through contact with skin. Especially through cuts or breaks in the skin and through mucous membranes like the eyes.

Found worldwide, it was long considered an occupational disease (miners, farming, vets, and sugarcaneharvesting and sewer workers), it is increasingly associated with recreational water sports andcamping.

Symptoms of leptospirosis, if present,  appear in up to 4 weeks after exposure. Sometimes the person will show no symptoms or mild flu-likesymptoms.

According to the CDC, Leptospirosis may occur in two phases; after the first phase, with fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhea, the patient may recover for a time but become ill again. If a second phase occurs, it is more severe; the person may have kidney or liver failure (jaundice) or meningitis. This phase is also called Weil’s disease.

Leptospirosis is confirmed by laboratory testing of a blood or urine sample.

The infection can be treated with antibiotics (penicillin and doxycycline), especially if started early in the disease. For very ill patients, intensive care support and IV antibiotic may be necessary.

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