Leptospirosis is a serious threat to the health and livelihood of all people who either work with or simply come into contact with animals on-farm.
Leptospirosis, also referred to zoonosis, is a known human health risk with disease transfer well recognised from a variety of animal species to people. Those most at-risk include farm workers, vets, meat workers and hunters.
While routine control of lepto in New Zealand dairy cattle has improved thanks to widespread vaccination, evidence remains that there is still room for improvement on all types of rural properties.
Every year almost 100 cases of leptospirosis are reported in humans, and it is estimated the numbers of unreported or undiagnosed cases are even higher.
Leptospirosis vaccination of young calves is very important to protect those most vulnerable on-farm. It is also a formative part of evaluating risk factors on-farm and undertaking preventative measures to manage this easily transmissible disease.
Current recommended precautions based on recent NZ studies include the following.
Vaccinating all livestock under advice from your veterinarian; it is essential calves are vaccinated and protected before they become infected because vaccination will not clear an established infection. For spring-calving herds, two doses of vaccine before Christmas are recommended.
Do not keep pigs on dairy farms or have unvaccinated pigs or their effluent in contact with other livestock.
Control rodents and wildlife: seek advice on baiting and trapping, vermin-proof buildings and feed stores. The emergence of Leptospira tarassovi and the presence of Leptospira ballum suggest rodents may be involved in spreading infection to livestock.
Minimise contact with animal urine through the use of personal protective equipment, good hygiene practices and taking care to avoid any other risky exposures. For example, effluent, aborted material, assisting calving, home kill, hunting.
Be aware and share your awareness with visitors who could be exposed when on your farm. If you have a ‘flu-like’ illness be sure to seek medical help early and raise the suspicion of lepto to your doctor.
For further information about early calf lepto vaccination and lepto control on your property, speak with your local vet clinic today.