Rat and dog urine disease suspected after flooding

THREE people in the Wide Bay region are suspected to have been infected with leptospirosis - a bacterial disease spread by the urine of infected rats and dogs.

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service's Margaret Young said while none of the cases were confirmed, it was not unusual for leptospirosis to appear after events such as the flooding seen across the region last month.

She said the disease was spread in the urine of infected animals such as rats and dogs or in water or soil contaminated with animal urine.

It occurred most commonly in people exposed to the bacteria in their line of work, farmers or meat workers for example, or by swimming or wading through water.

It is not spread through human contact.

"In its mild form, leptospirosis can be confused with the flu, with symptoms including high fever, sweats, headache, nausea and vomiting, and muscular pain," Dr Young said.

"More severe symptoms include liver damage and kidney and lung failure."

Dr Young said it was important to treat the infection early with antibiotics and encouraged residents to visit a doctor if they develop flu-like symptoms.

"If left untreated, some people can develop complications, which can be fatal."

She recommended residents wash their hands after coming into contact with soil, dirty water of animals and covering all sores with waterproof dressings.

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