with Phil Rennie
Leptospirosis remains 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 is a known human health risk (aka zoonosis) 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 that the numbers of unreported or undiagnosed cases are even higher.
Leptospirosis vaccination of young calves is 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 New Zealand studies include:
•Vaccinating all livestock under advice from your veterinarian. It is essential that calves are vaccinated and protected before they become infected as vaccination will not clear an established infection. For spring-calving herds, two doses of vaccine before Christmas are needed.
•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 that 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 e.g. effluent, aborted material, assisting calving, home kill, hunting.
•Be aware and share your awareness. Remember others can be exposed when on your farm. If you have a ‘flu-like’ illness 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.