Vet Students at Low Risk of Getting Leptospirosis

November 11, 2013 10:52 pm

A study into lepto in vet students at Massey, partly funded by Rural Women NZ, has shown students were at a low risk of contracting lepto, despite frequent exposure to potential sources of infection.  It’s all helped paint a picture of the broader occupational risks.  More

The December 2013 of VetScript, NZVA’s publication, included a major feature on Leptospirosis – 14 articles including lepto as a family issue, by Rural Women NZ.  You can read the articles here.


Some stand out statistics:
    • Leptospirosis is the most prevalent occupationally-acquired zoonotic disease in New Zealand, affecting mainly the rural workforce and abattoir workers.
    • It can be passed from any infected mammal to humans through bacteria in the urine.
    • There were 113 notified cases affecting New Zealanders in 2012 with half of these hospitalised. The notified cases are the tip of the iceberg.
    • Based on studies in occupations at risk , modelling and notified cases, it is estimated there are 4,712 cases a year in rural, compared with 189 in urban areas, demonstrating the significant burden lepto places on New Zealanders.
    • 13% of abattoir workers, 4.6% of vets and 5% of farmers have been exposed to this infection.
    • The annual financial cost of working days lost and treatment in New Zealand is estimated at $30.4 million.
    • Loss of livestock production due to disease and mortalities – and in some species sub-optimal growth or reproductive performance – adds to the economic cost.
    • There is a high level of vaccination of dairy cows in NZ, primarily to protect worker health; but vaccination timing is all important. A pilot study showed that early vaccination appears to be a key factor in reducing lepto shedding in long-term vaccinated dairy herds. Further work is under way at Massey to provide farmers with recommendations on best practice for lepto vaccination.
    • Farm working dogs are also at risk of infection and severe disease, and may not be well protected by currently available vaccines


Interested in knowing more? Go to You will find links to the presentations we heard under the News tab.

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