Certain bacteria cause the infection. It is spread from the urine of infected animals. The urine gets into water, soil, and plants. The bacteria gets into the body from direct contact. This means from:

  • Cuts in the skin
  • The mouth, nose, and eyes
  • Drinking contaminated water

Risk Factors

Leptospirosis is found all over the world. It is most common in tropical places.

The risk is higher for those who have contact with:

  • Infected animals
  • Contaminated soil or water, such as with:
    • Farming
    • Sewer work
    • Working in the military
    • Mining
    • Swimming or wading
    • Boating, canoeing, or kayaking
    • Camping



Some people do not have symptoms. Those who do may have:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Belly pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Red eyes
  • Rash
  • Dry cough
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes— jaundice

Rarely, it can lead to problems with the lungs and kidneys.


The doctor will ask about your symptoms, health, and travel history. A physical exam may be done. Blood and urine tests may be done to check for infection or other problems.

Other tests may be done to check for organ damage.



The infection is treated with antibiotics.

In rare but serious cases, treatment may be needed to support organ function.


The risk of infection can be lowered by:

  • Avoiding soil, plants, or water where animals pass urine
  • Wearing protective gloves and waterproof boots
  • Using boiled or bottled water

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.