Vets Back Call To Combat Leptospirosis

NEW ZEALAND - Veterinarians agree that more needs to be done to prevent the spread of leptospirosis, the most commonly notified infectious disease in the workplace in New Zealand.
calendar icon 10 August 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) has voiced its support for the Department of Labour’s call for a more coordinated approach to combat the disease.

“Vaccination is just one component of the programme. Other important factors include rodent control, effluent and water management, and staff education.”

Julie Hood, NZVA CEO

“Cases of leptospirosis in humans are commonplace and the death of a meatworker from the disease earlier this year shows how serious it is” says Julie Hood, NZVA CEO. “Leptospirosis is the most important occupationally-acquired infectious disease caught from animals.”

Leptospirosis affects the kidneys and, in humans, can cause persistent flu-like symptoms, renal failure and occasionally death. It is usually contracted by contact with the urine of infected animals.

“The key to combating leptospirosis is to work together - with farmers, researchers veterinarians and Government agencies - to ensure we know about the extent of the disease,” said Julie.

“New Zealand has one of the highest rates of leptospirosis in the developed world. We can reduce that rate by creating greater awareness of the need for vaccination as part of a wider risk management programme.”

NZVA, with the Livestock Improvement Corporation, runs a leptospirosis risk management programme for dairy farmers called Leptosure.

The only leptospirosis risk management programme to have OSH approval, Leptosure is delivered by veterinarians to farmers to ensure all farm stock are vaccinated. By using an OSH approved programme, farmers can protect themselves from potential litigation if workers or family should contract disease

“Vaccination is just one component of the programme. Other important factors include rodent control, effluent and water management, and staff education.”

The programme also involves an annual consultation between the veterinarian and farm management, covering all aspects of risk. Once a checklist of the risk areas needing to be addressed and remedied has been checked off, the veterinarian can sign off the herd as Leptosure accredited.

While a lot is known about leptospirosis in dairy cattle, little is known about its effect on other livestock species, such as sheep, deer and beef cattle. However, the fact that meatworkers and non-dairy farmers have contracted the disease proves leptospirosis is not limited to dairy cattle.

“NZVA applauds the call for more action by the Department of Labour,” said Julie. “We would like to see a commitment to funding vital research so that we can combat leptospirosis for good.”

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