SafeWork NSW warns workers on risk of leptospirosis

SafeWork NSW has issued a safety alert reminding workers of the potential risks of a bacterial infection called leptospirosis, and the measures that they should implement to control the risks.

The infection which is carried by mice, rats, and other animals is relatively rare in Australia, but according to the safety regulator, some occupations such as sugar cane and banana farmers, veterinarians and abattoir workers are at higher risk.

For farm workers, the organism usually enters the body through skin cuts or abrasions and there are several ways farm workers can prevent leptospirosis.

“People at risk are those who have close contact with animals or are exposed to water, mud, soil, or vegetation that has been contaminated with animal urine,” SafeWork NSW said.

“Symptoms usually develop between five and 14 days following infection – although it can develop from two to 30 days –and last from a few days to three weeks, or longer.

“Those affected get symptoms such as fevers, headaches, chills, muscle aches, joint aches, red eyes, stomach pain, and vomiting.

“Some people with leptospirosis go on to develop complications, such as Weil’s disease – kidney failure, jaundice, and skin and mucous membrane haemorrhages – and meningitis – inflammation of the lining of the brain.”

To prevent leptospirosis, clean-up rubbish and remove food sources that are close to facilities, or any onsite accommodation, wear protective clothing when working with animals, shower after work, and train workers on good hygiene and decontamination practices.

For more information see the leptospirosis fact sheet

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