Rural communities are reminded that good hygiene, handwashing and cleaning are essential after more Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCM) virus cases have been reported in Queensland.
Warmer than normal temperatures and wetter than normal weather over winter – and predicted for spring – are also prompting concerns about a spike in Leptospirosis cases reported in the northern part of the state.
LCM virus and Leptospirosis can be carried by wild rodents and the ongoing mouse plague may be helping these diseases spread. Leptospirosis can also be carried by other animals, especially cattle and pigs. This can increase the risks for people working on farms, particularly those with exposure to rodents, pigs and cattle.
LCM virus is contracted by exposure to rodent urine, faeces, saliva, bites or nesting sites. It can be breathed in from dust particles from nesting sites or droppings; ingested by contaminated food or water; or can enter the body through scratches or cuts. Most people don’t become unwell, but some people may experience an influenza-like illness with high fevers, severe malaise (tiredness), headaches, lack of appetite and joint aches. It can cause congenital infection in pregnant women, particularly in the first trimester, which may result in birth defects or miscarriage.
Leptospira bacteria thrive in moist conditions, especially puddles and muddy paddocks. Leptospirosis is caused by contact with the urine of infected animals. This usually happens when animal urine or contaminated water, soil and vegetation get into the body through cuts, abrasions and sores, or the eyes, nose or mouth. It can occasionally occur by ingesting contaminated food or water or inhaling droplets of contaminated fluids. Anyone who potentially comes in contact with animal urine (especially that of rodents, cattle and pigs) or contaminated water, soil and vegetation is at risk. It can cause influenza-like symptoms, including high fever, severe headaches, chills, muscle aches and vomiting.
To reduce the risk of exposure to these and other diseases:
- Check your skin for cuts and abrasions before starting work and cover them with a water-resistant dressing.
- If you do cut yourself, stop work and clean the wound thoroughly, apply an antiseptic and cover with a water-resistant dressing.
- Wear gloves when handling dead or live rodents.
- Protect food from wild rodents.
- Keep work areas clean, dry and well drained.
- Clean and disinfect areas that are contaminated with animal urine, droppings or have signs of rodent activity.
- Clean up rubbish and food scraps and control rodent populations.
- Wear sufficient personal protective equipment and wash your hands regularly with soap and running water, particularly important before eating, drinking, smoking and touching your face.
- Shower after work and change your work clothing. Protect pet rodents from exposure to wild rodents as they can be infected and not show symptoms and clean hands after handling pets.
- Speak to your veterinarian about vaccination and other biosecurity measures to protect your cattle and pigs against leptospirosis.
More information is at Leptospirosis and Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (Centres for Disease Control).