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Rare bacterial infections reported in Wyoming

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A rare, potentially serious bacterial infection known as leptospirosis has been recently diagnosed in several dogs and one human in Laramie County, according to the Wyoming Department of Health and the Wyoming Livestock Board.

The human case is believed to be the state’s first on record. The affected person is an individual with occupational exposure to animals.

“Leptospirosis is extremely rare in humans,” said Dr. Emily Curren, state public health veterinarian with the WDH, “but we want to let people know about the potential risk right now, especially local dog owners.”

Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial infection that can lead to kidney damage, liver failure and even death in pets and humans without appropriate treatment. The disease can be passed to humans through the urine of infected animals or through contact with water or soil contaminated with their urine. Many kinds of wild and domestic animals can carry the bacteria, including cattle, horses, dogs and rodents.

In humans, leptospirosis can cause a wide range of symptoms including fever, headache, chills, jaundice — yellow skin and eyes — and abdominal pain. Some people may start to feel better for a short time and then develop more severe symptoms.

In pets, leptospirosis may not cause any clinical symptoms or it may cause nonspecific signs including fever, vomiting, refusal to eat and muscle pain. Dr. Hallie Hasel, state veterinarian, urged dog owners, “If you think your pet may have leptospirosis, contact your veterinarian immediately.”

Recommended precautions to help prevent leptospirosis infection include:

  • Wearing gloves and practicing good hand hygiene if coming in contact with the urine of an infected pet.
  • For dog owners, consulting with their veterinarian about vaccinating their dogs for leptospirosis. Leptospirosis vaccine may not have been included with other routine vaccinations.
  • Avoiding swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine.
  • Reducing rodent habitats around the home, workplace and recreational areas by removing brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood and possible rodent food supplies.

More information about leptospirosis and humans can be found online here. More information for pet owners can be found here.

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