22 Jun 2012

Rats, dogs also a disease risk - consultant

6:27 am on 22 June 2012

Hamilton agricultural consultant Vaughan Jones says warnings about the risks of catching the disease leptospirosis from farm livestock need to be extended to include rats and dogs.

Leptospirosis - formerly known as "dairy farm fever" - can be transmitted to humans in the urine of infected animals. It often produced flu-like symptoms, but in rare cases can be fatal.

The disease is most commonly associated with cattle and pigs but in 2006 also caused the death of a meat worker who had worked in a sheep processing plant. In 2001, labour officials warned about rats spreading the disease after a fisherman was fatally infected, apparently while handling his nets.

A retired farmer, Mr Jones says he contracted the disease last year and in his case it's been traced to rats.

Mr Jones says his wife also contracted leptospirosis, in her case from dogs.

He says dogs, like farm livestock, can be vaccinated against the disease

Last year, there were 70 cases of leptospirosis in humans and Rural Women New Zealand leads a national action group raising awareness about it.