Rare Bacterial Infection Detected in Dogs, Resident in Laramie County

Believed to be first human case of leptospirosis recorded in Wyoming

Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection passed to humans through the urine of infected animals or through contact with water, soil or food contaminated with their urine, has been detected in several dogs and one person in Laramie County. (Courtesy photo from the Wyoming Department of Health)

By Shen Wu Tan

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Wyoming health officials have detected a rare and potentially lethal bacterial infection called leptospirosis in several dogs and in one person in Laramie County.

It’s believed to be the first time the state has recorded a case of the infection, which can be passed from animals to people, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) and the Wyoming Livestock Board reported Friday. The infected individual was exposed to animals through work.

“The person has recovered,” Kim Deti, health department spokesperson, told the Wyoming Truth. “No more details are available about this individual’s situation…. This is a rare infection, but we did want people to know it’s been identified in Wyoming.”

Some of the infected dogs are being treated, and some have died, she added. The exact source of the bacteria is currently unknown.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection passed to humans through the urine of infected animals or through contact with water, soil or food contaminated with their urine. Both wild and domestic animals, including rodents, cattle, pigs, dogs and horses can carry the bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If not treated appropriately, the infection can lead to kidney damage, liver failure and possible death in humans and pets.

Leptospirosis can cause a wide range of symptoms in people, such as chills, fever, headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, muscle aches, red eyes and jaundice, which causes yellow skin and eyes.

The CDC reports that the time between exposure to a contaminated source and becoming sick ranges from two days to four weeks. The illness often begins with fever and symptoms. However, an individual might recover for a bit before getting sick again. In the second phase of the illness, a person might experience kidney or liver failure or meningitis.

The bacteria can enter the body through eyes, nose, mouth or skin, especially if the skin is broken from an injury, or by drinking contaminated water. It’s rare that an infected person can spread the bacteria to someone else. Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics.

In pets, the infection might not cause any clinical symptoms or it may lead to muscle pain, fever, vomiting and refusal to eat.  Wyoming State Veterinarian Hallie Hasel recommends that dog owners contact their veterinarians right away if they think their pets are infected.

Additionally, the Wyoming Department of Health recommends the following steps to help prevent leptospirosis infection:

  • When in contact with urine of an infected pet, practice proper hand hygiene and wear gloves.
  • Consult a veterinarian about vaccinating dogs for leptospirosis, which might not be included with other routine vaccinations.
  • Remove brush, rock piles, cluttered firewood and possible rodent food supplies to reduce rodent habitats around workplaces, recreational spaces and homes.
  • Don’t wade or swim in water that might be contaminated.

The CDC also suggests those exposed to contaminated water or soil wear protective clothing and footwear.

Deti said the health department and Hasel are sharing prevention recommendations with local veterinarians and the public to reduce further spread of the infection.

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