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Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM

Deadly Leptospirosis Outbreak in Michigan

By October 28, 2011

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Leptospira sp. bacteria - CDC/ Rob Weyant Veterinarians at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine have diagnosed more than 20 cases of leptospirosis, a potentially fatal bacterial infection. This bacterial disease affects many wild and domestic animals, notably dogs, which may pass this disease to other dogs or humans. (Leptospirosis a zoonotic disease.)

There are several strains of leptospira bacteria, differing slightly in the severity of disease and species of animals that are most susceptible. The strain involved in this outbreak has been identified as  icterohaemorrhagiae, which may cause severe disease in humans and animals. The kidney is the primary target organ, and the disease is most commonly passed via the urine of infected animals or stagnant water that contains infected urine.

From Carole Bolin, director of the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Center, "This is a very serious, rapidly progressing type of leptospirosis in dogs. Dogs can appear normal one day and be severely ill the next day. People can become infected, so this also is a threat to animal owners, caretakers and veterinarians." Full article

In the Michigan outbreak, veterinarians want to get the word out that this disease is occurring in pet dogs, rather than stray dogs or wild animals (primarily rats), which is more typical. As rat populations were controlled and dogs were vaccinated for this disease, the incidence decreased over time. The increase in cases in this outbreak is attributed to a reduction in canine vaccinations for leptospirosis over the years.

Leptospirosis is not a 'core' vaccine or a vaccine required by law such as rabies, so many pet owners have elected not to vaccinate for this disease due to less cases seen and possible adverse vaccine reactions in dogs. Please discuss your pet's vaccination status and concerns with your veterinarian to protect your pet and family.

More About Leptospirosis:

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Readers Respond: Have you had a zoonotic disease?

Image: Leptospira sp. bacteria - CDC/ Rob Weyant

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November 5, 2011 at 4:52 pm
(1) AJ says:

I wonder if cases are actually being reported accurately.

“Since stage one may go unnoticed and stage two is characterized by other major conditions, Leptospirosis may be misdiagnosed or go undocumented resulting in less cases being registered than actually exists.” – Leptospirosis

That would mean the worst is yet to come, no? Or do some people just not know they have it?

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