Leptospirosis risk factors

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Venkata Sivakrishna Kumar Pulivarthi M.B.B.S [2]


The risk of acquiring leptospirosis is associated with contact with animals, which made leptospirosis as an important occupational disease, especially affecting farmers, slaughterhouse workers, pet traders, veterinarians, rodent catchers and sewer workers who are in contact with mammalian species which acts as a natural carriers of leptospires.[1] According to World health organization survey highest risk groups are subsistence farmers and people living in urban slums.[2] Common risk factors in the development of leptospirosis include occupational exposure to animals, tropical or temperate climates, and water sports in contaminated lakes and rivers.

Risk factors

Leptospirosis occurs worldwide, but is most common in temperate or tropical climates. Severe form of leptospirosis is more common in the risk group of age < 5 or > 65 years with comorbid conditions, such as pneumonia, immunocompromised status, history of liver diseases such as alcoholic liver disease.[3] It is an occupational hazard for many people who work outdoors or with animals, such as:[4]

Common Risk Factors

  • Farmers
  • Mine workers
  • Sewer workers
  • Slaughterhouse workers
  • Veterinarians and animal caretakers
  • Fish workers
  • Dairy farmers
  • Military personnel

The disease has also been associated with swimming, wading, kayaking, and rafting in contaminated lakes and rivers. As such, it is a recreational hazard for campers or those who participate in outdoor sports. The risk is likely greater for those who participate in these activities in tropical or temperate climates.

In addition, incidence of Leptospirosis infection among urban children appears to be increasing.

Activities involving direct animal contact Indirect animal contact
Occupational activities Recreational activities
  • Abattoir worker
  • Farmer/dairy farmer
  • Veterinary surgeon
  • Meat inspector
  • Rodent control worker
  • Pet shop owner
  • Butcher
  • Animal shelter worker
  • Pet owner
  • Gamekeeper
  • Sewer worker
  • Miner
  • Military personnel
  • Septic tank cleaner
  • Fish farm worker
  • Canal and river worker
  • Watercress farmer
  • Flood relief worker
  • Gravel pit worker
  • Street dweller/urban slums
  • Construction and demolition site worker Plumber
  • Open water swimming
  • Canoeing/Kayaking
  • Sailing/wind surfing
  • Potholing/caving
  • Adventure traveller
  • Fresh water fishing
  • White water rafting
  • Rowing
  • Orienteering/triathlon
  • Golf (stagnant pool traps)


  1. Levett PN (2001). "Leptospirosis". Clin Microbiol Rev. 14 (2): 296–326. doi:10.1128/CMR.14.2.296-326.2001. PMC 88975. PMID 11292640.
  2. McBride AJ, Athanazio DA, Reis MG, Ko AI (2005). "Leptospirosis". Curr Opin Infect Dis. 18 (5): 376–86. PMID 16148523.
  3. Forbes AE, Zochowski WJ, Dubrey SW, Sivaprakasam V (2012). "Leptospirosis and Weil's disease in the UK". QJM. 105 (12): 1151–62. doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcs145. PMID 22843698.
  4. "risk factors". center for disease control and prevention. June 9, 2015.