Leptosperosis Outbreak in Sydney- July 2019

You may have seen recent media reports of Leptospirosis occurring in Sydney, specifically Glebe, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. We are monitoring the situation closely and this email is to update you on the disease and its potential to occur in the Drummoyne area.


Some facts:

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic bacteria (ie spreads between animals and humans)

It is infectious and causes liver and kidney disease.

The current outbreak appears to be particularly potent – five out of the six known cases presented to veterinary hospitals have died despite treatment.

Lepto is usually endemic in European rats (not water rats, bandicoots, etc)

Lepto is mostly shed into the environment in rats' urine.

The bacteria is most likely to occur in persistently wet areas where rats are common.


Dogs get infected though contact with infected rats or their urine.


Humans can get lepto and it's a devastating disease (of the liver and kidneys)

Humans can catch lepto by coming in contact with rat urine, or with infected dogs, with infection through contact with cuts on the skin or via the mouth.

Most humans affected live and work in tropical areas (banana and sugar cane farms) or in wet environments such as sewers. Men are infected more frequently than women.


Rats live in secluded holes and tunnels and need food, so common areas of rat habitat include sewers, around restaurants and shopping centres, and in areas where rubbish is allowed to accumulate for long periods.

Well maintained parks and houses are unlikely to have rats and even if some are present, the environment usually needs to be quite wet for the bacteria to survive and infect.

It seems some of the current cases are in Surry Hills around the new light-rail worksites, so it's possible rats are being "flushed out" of their habitat. Persistent wet weather can increase transmission.


Dogs who frequent and/or chase rats in alleyways, behind restaurants, etc, are at some risk. Big, well maintained parks and open spaces and public footpaths are low risk, as is your home and garden (unless you have very wet soil and rat habitat).

Therefore most of our pet dogs are unlikely to contract this disease.

There have been no known cases in Drummoyne since I have owned the hospital (2008)


Cats can get lepto but usually clinical signs are milder. Infections seem to be less common, perhaps because cats have adapted to tolerate a disease that is common in their prey, and also they tend to avoid wet areas. There is no vaccine available for cats.


Pet rats are unlikely to get lepto as they wouldn't come in contact with wild rats.


The signs of lepto look similar to many other diseases:

Fever, sore muscles, lethargy


Sore eyes

Red eyes

Yellow (jaundice) in the whites of the eyes or gums

Loss of appetite

Change in thirst, usually increased


Different Leptospirosis serovars (types) require different vaccines (a bit like the flu vaccines in humans). There are hundreds of serovars around the world and until yesterday we didn't know which serovar is causing the outbreak. We now know the vaccine we have is effective. The vaccine had sold out from our normal suppliers but we are sure we are receiving some this afternoon.


The vaccine is safe to use in healthy dogs.

It requires 2 doses, 2 weeks apart.

The cost is $194 for the course of 2 vaccines


So we are recommending vaccination of at-risk dogs, and perhaps in households where in-contact people might be at greater risk.


So, which dogs should be vaccinated?

All dogs who live in Surry Hills, Glebe and Darlinghurst.

Dogs who chase rats, hang out in quiet/wet/unkept laneways, scavengers in rubbish dumps or neglected urban areas.

Dogs owned by people with health issues that might get very complicated by infection with lepto ie if anyone in your household has any chronic liver or kidney disease, and/or is immunosuppressed (chemotherapy, HIV, immune-mediated conditions).


Given the severity of the disease and its possible transmission to humans, the Australian Veterinary Association and many Inner West veterinarians are recommending that all inner west and city dogs should be vaccinated in the face of the current outbreak. With all vaccines we need to weigh up risks and benefits - but if there is any threat of infection, we should vaccinate.


Hopefully the above is enough to guide your decision-making. If you have any further questions, please book in for a consultation and we will advise based on your risk level.


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194 Lyons Road


NSW 2047


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