Symptoms of leptospirosis
The symptoms of leptospirosis usually develop suddenly around 7 to 14 days after exposure to the leptospira bacteria.
However, it is possible for symptoms to develop from between 2 and 30 days after exposure.
About 90% of leptospirosis infections only cause mild symptoms, including:
- a high temperature (fever) that is usually between 38C and 40C (100.4-104-F)
- sudden headaches
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- muscle pain, particularly affecting the muscles in the calves and lower back
- conjunctivitis (irritation and redness of the eyes)
- a short-lived rash
These symptoms usually resolve within five to seven days. However, in about 10% of cases people go on to experience more serious symptoms.
Severe leptospirosis infections are sometimes called Weil's disease. The symptoms of a severe infection usually develop one to three days after the more mild symptoms have passed.
If the condition progresses to a severe infection, it may affect organs, including the brain, liver, kidneys, heart and lungs. This can lead to further symptoms, including:
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
- swollen ankles, feet or hands
- chest pain
- symptoms of meningitis or encephalitis, such as headaches, vomiting and seizures
- shortness of breath
- coughing up blood
If left untreated, the infection may be life threatening, and could lead to brain damage, kidney failure, internal bleeding and loss of lung function.
Page last reviewed: 12/11/2014
Next review due: 12/11/2016