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What you Need to Know about Leptospirosis

Thursday, February 23, 2017  
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Leptospirosis Fact Sheets


  • Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can affect people and animals, including dogs.
  • A recent outbreak of leptospirosis in dogs was identified in Maricopa County, Arizona. Over 40 dogs in Maricopa County have been diagnosed with leptospirosis during the last year (since February 2016). The outbreak is still ongoing.
  • Most of the leptospirosis positive dogs have been identified in the Scottsdale area, however, new cases are being reported in other cities throughout the valley, including Gilbert, Tempe, Phoenix, Litchfield Park, Fountain Hills, and Avondale. There have also been 3 leptospirosis positive dogs outside of Maricopa County identified in Yavapai, Navajo, and Pima Counties.
  • In Arizona, leptospirosis is a reportable disease in both people (to the local/county health department and Arizona Department of Health Services) and animals (to the Arizona Department of Agriculture).
  • In Arizona, leptospirosis is rarely diagnosed in dogs or people. Previously there have been less than 5 leptospirosis positive dogs in Arizona per year. The last person who was diagnosed with leptospirosis in Arizona was in 2014. Only three humans have been diagnosed since 2012 in Arizona (2012, 2013, and 2014) and all were travel-related exposures to areas were leptospirosis is more common.
  • To date, none of the people with exposure to the sick dogs have been diagnosed with leptospirosis, however a few have illnesses that are currently being investigated. 


  • The bacteria that causes leptospirosis is spread in the urine of infected animals, including rodents, wildlife, dogs, and livestock.
  • People and dogs can be infected through contact with infected urine. People, dogs, and other animals can also become infected when coming in contact with urine-contaminated soil, water, grass, food or bedding from infected animals. The bacteria can survive for weeks to months in wet soil and water.
  • When exposed to contaminated urine or urine-contaminated materials, people and dogs are at increased risk of being infected if they have open wounds or cuts on their skin or if the contaminated materials come in contact with their face (eyes or mouth), such as by swimming in a contaminated body of water and immersing their head under water.
  • Places that might pose a risk for leptospirosis infection to dogs include areas that are visited by lots of dogs and other animals, including dog parks, dog day care, boarding facilities, veterinary clinics, natural bodies of water such as ponds or rivers, puddles, or standing water/flooded or damp areas, etc. Infection could potentially occur anywhere an infected animal (including rodents) has urinated. 

Public Health Actions

The Department of Agriculture, Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Arizona Department of Health Services, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working together to investigate the possible source of the dog infections and provide education to veterinarians, their staff, and dog owners to help prevent human infections.


Clinical Disease

  • The time from when a person is exposed to when they develop signs or symptoms of leptospirosis infection can be as short as 2 days after exposure and as long as 30 days after exposure: most people who are infected won’t have any symptoms at all.
  • DOGS: Symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs can include fever, lack of energy, lack of appetite, red eyes, vomiting, diarrhea, and signs of kidney or liver damage which can include frequent urination, excessive drinking, yellow eyes and skin, decreased urination, or abdominal pain.  Some dogs do not show signs of illness or only have mild illness. Leptospirosis infection can be fatal or result in permanent kidney or liver damage.
  • PEOPLE: People with symptoms of leptospirosis most often have mild flu-like symptoms, however occasionally severe illness resulting in liver or kidney damage can occur. Symptoms of leptospirosis in people include fever, headache, chills, severe muscle pain (especially calves and thighs), and red eyes. Rash, yellow eyes and skin, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, and liver and/or kidney damage can also occur. People typically get sick about a week after they are exposed but it can take as little as 2 days and as long as 30 days for someone to show symptoms. Some people do not show any signs of illness or only have mild diseases. Rarely, leptospirosis can cause organ failure or death in those with severe disease. Certain types of leptospirosis can be more severe and people who are older or have underlying medical conditions can be more likely to have severe disease.


More information

  • Local health department contacts:

Content courtesy of Arizona Department of Public Health & Maricopa County Public Health.

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