Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the Leptospira bacteria. People can catch Leptospirosis when they come in contact with the urine or birth products from infected animals. This disease is a particular risk for dairy and pig farmers.

Leptospirosis is also spread by rats and known as Weils disease. It usually enters the body through cuts or scratches in the skin. Banana farmers and sugar cane growers are at particular risk.

Leptospirosis causes a flu-like illness with symptoms including coughing, fever, chills, sore joints and general weakness. In 2022 (up to September) there were 135 reported cases in Australia. To prevent leptospirosis, vaccinate cattle, control rodents and wear protective clothing (gloves, boots, overalls, P2 dust mask, protective eyewear).

Fast facts:

  • Leptospirosis is a disease that can spread from infected animals to humans when people come in contact with the infected animal’s urine or birth products.
  • Leptospirosis causes a flu-like illness which can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Vaccinate livestock against leptospirosis.
  • Wear protective clothing and always wash your hands thoroughly after handling livestock and before handling food.
  • Use alcohol hand wipes before eating if you are away from home and can’t wash your hands.

References used for this topic

More information:

Meat and Livestock Australia

Queensland Health

Clinical care:

Centre for Disease Control (CDC)
Leptospirosis: Fact Sheet for Clinicians

World Health Organization (WHO)
Human leptospirosis: guidance for diagnosis, surveillance and control 2018

Research & reviews:

Australian Journal of General Practice
Leptospirosis: An important zoonosis acquired through work, play and travel (2018)

Medical Journal of Australia
Fatal leptospirosis presenting as musculoskeletal pain

Communicable Diseases Intelligence
An outbreak of leptospirosis associated with cattle workers during the wet season, in the Northern Territory of Australia, 2021.