Leptosure® is a national risk management programme developed by the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) and the Society of Dairy Cattle Veterinarians to reduce the risk of human leptospirosis infection on dairy farms.
By following the Leptosure® risk management programme fully, you can be confident that you have taken all ‘practicable steps’ to prevent leptospirosis infecting people on your dairy farm.
How does Leptosure® work?
Leptosure® is a working plan between the farmer and veterinarian to minimise the risk of anyone on the farm contracting leptospirosis. It includes farm management practices as well as a robust vaccination programme.
Together, using the Leptosure® programme, the farmer and veterinarian will:
Identify the hazards that may lead to contracting leptospirosis
Assess the significance of each hazard
Enact a risk management programme that eliminates, isolates or minimises significant hazards
Monitor and assess risk on an ongoing basis.
Once the plan has been implemented, the farm will be assigned a Protected Leptosure® status. To ensure ongoing compliance with the programme and maintain this status, the farm will be will be reassessed on an annual basis.
Leptospirosis is regarded by Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) as a significant hazard and The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 is very specific about the role of the employer in identifying and protecting their staff from significant hazards.
Leptospirosis is an infectious bacterial disease caused by leptospires. These multiply in the kidneys of animals and are shed in the urine. They can also infect reproductive tissue. Leptospirosis affects many types of animals as well as humans.
What are the symptoms for humans?
It may just feel like a bad case of flu, with headaches and fever. You may develop a rash and red or yellow eyes. Some people become seriously ill and need hospital intensive care and it can cause death. The disease might progress to kidney failure, liver failure or meningitis, requiring hospitalisation. Pregnant women who catch Leptospirosis can miscarry.
Symptoms are often prolonged and recurrent because the physical damage to the kidney and liver may remain after the infection has cleared. Some farmers who have contracted leptospirosis have permanent kidney failure and so require dialysis. Leptospirosis can be very costly as people may be unable to work for months, or even unable to fulfil the physical requirements of running a farm.
How do you catch Leptospirosis?
It's easier to catch than you might think. Often, the contaminated animal you catch it off doesn't show any signs of having it. Transmission of the bacteria occurs when infected animal urine, or water contaminated with urine, gets in your eyes, nose, mouth or through cracks in your skin.
For dairy farmers it is usually by way of infected cattle urine through cuts in the skin, assisting in animal birth, or handling membranes, kidneys or bladders. Infected pigs are also a common source of infection for humans because of the exposure to urine. Contact with urine from infected rats, mice and hedgehogs is also a common source of infection, eg. handling calf feed contaminated by rat urine.