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Floods highlight leptospirosis risk

The North Queensland floods saw several cases of soil-borne bacterial diseases, highlighting the importance of protecting workers against leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is common in tropical regions during the wet season. The disease is spread through contact with the urine of infected animals, especially cattle, pigs and rodents.

People can get infected when animal urine or contaminated water, soil and vegetation gets into non-intact skin (cuts, abrasions and sores) or the eyes, nose and mouth.

People at risk of leptospirosis include those who work:

  • with cattle, pigs or rodents
  • on farms, such as banana and berry farms
  • in meat processing
  • in areas where rodents inhabit, such as bushland
  • with outdoor water sports, such as white-water rafting.

Leptospirosis can cause a flu-like illness and some people may require hospitalisation.

Ways to protect against infection:

  • Check your skin for cuts and abrasions before starting work and cover non-intact skin with a water-resistant dressing.
  • If you sustain a cut or abrasion, clean the wound thoroughly, apply an antiseptic and cover with a water-resistant dressing.
  • Shower after work and change your work clothing.
  • Keep work areas clean, dry and well drained.
  • Clean and disinfect areas that are contaminated with animal urine or have signs of rodent activity.
  • Discourage rodents by cleaning up rubbish and food scraps and controlling rodent populations.
  • Wear sufficient personal protective equipment.
  • Speak to your veterinarian about vaccination and other biosecurity measures to protect your cattle and pigs against leptospirosis.

Further information

For more information see www.health.qld.gov.au