Residents are being reminded of the potential dangers of leptospirosis after an increase in cases this year.
Year to date there have been 10 cases of leptospirosis in the Darling Downs Public Health Unit area which is 2.8 times greater than the past five-year average.
Leptospirosis is a disease that spreads from animals or human with symptoms including high fever, severe headaches, chills, muscle aches and vomiting. Other symptoms can include jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and rash. Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics however, in rare cases, it can be fatal.
Public Health Unit Senior Medical Officer Dr Liam Flynn said the recent increase in leptospirosis cases coincided with an increase in rodent activity in the local area.
“We have seen an increase in rodents, particularly mice, in areas around the Southern Downs and Darling Downs,” Dr Flynn said.
“Rodents, as well as other animals including livestock, pets and wildlife, can carry the Leptospira bacteria without showing symptoms. Human infections are usually caused by exposure to an infected animal through the unintentional ingestion or inhalation of its urine or excrement.
“Leptospirosis can also be present in contaminated soil or water. Covering cuts and abrasions can help minimise the risk of this exposure.”
Dr Flynn said the best way to avoid getting leptospirosis was frequent hand washing, particularly before eating, and thorough cleaning areas where rodents have been.
“There are additional steps that specific occupations like farmers, abattoir workers and vets can take to protect themselves from infection,” Dr Flynn said.
“However, on the whole, good hygiene practices like washing your hands before eating, discouraging mice from in and around your home, and keeping areas clean, are the best methods of prevention.”