Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria from the genus Leptospira which infects animals as well as humans. The main medium of transmission of this disease is water which is contaminated with animal urine which gets exposed to open cuts, eyes or mucous membranes. This disease is known by several other names such as black jaundice, Fort Bragg, Rat Catcher's Yellows, Canicola Fever, Weil's Syndrome, Canefield Fever, Nanukayami Fever, 7-Day Fever and Pretibial Fever.
The symptoms of leptospirosis are varied as the disease attacks several of the vital organs such as the heart, liver, brain, kidneys and lungs. There may be no symptoms initially, which may develop into flu-like symptoms, characterized by intense headache, chills and fever. Jaundice-like symptoms may occur in cases where the liver has been affected.
Leptospirosis can be detected through urine and blood tests. Kidney and liver function tests are also conducted. Diagnosis is reached through these tests and a careful study of the medical history of the patient and the environmental surroundings.
There are aspects of treatment, firstly for suppressing the cause and secondly for combating potential complications. Doxycycline has been proved to be effective, as well as antibiotics like cefotaxime, penicillin, ampicillin and amoxicillin. While penicillin is effective in the leptospiremic phase, doxycycline helps in treatment during the carrier state.
Generally, leptospirosis has a fairly good prognosis, and several patients recover with no treatment. However, with the increase of symptoms, the prognosis tends to worsen, and full recovery will depend on timely and effective treatment. In this respect, pregnant women are at the highest risk in terms of fetal mortality.
There is no vaccine to be found in the US, but some European and Asian countries do have it. The vaccine is however, not totally foolproof, as it is effective only on particular strains of the bacterium. Prevention can also be implemented by avoiding contact with animal excreta as well as avoiding contaminated water and maintaining good hygiene.
The cost of doxycycline and penicillin is directly linked to the cost of treatment. Taking into consideration the advancement of the disease, the cost of treatment for completely leptospirosis can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars in more advanced cases.