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Leptospirosis in New Zealand: an ecological view

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Leptospirosis is an important animal and human health problem in New Zealand, and the epidemiological and ecological aspects of infection in domestic species and free-living species are described. The characteristics of infection with a particular serovar are often considerably different in different species of animal and primary epidemiological investigations involve differentiating between maintenance-host populations and accidental-host populations for the serovars present in a particular ecosystem. Cattle and pigs are maintenance hosts for hardjo and pomona respectively. Balcanica is maintained by possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) and ballum is maintained by the house mouse (Mus musculus), ship rat (Rattus rattus) and hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). In some regions, foci of copenhageni infection are maintained by Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus). Each serovar shows a high degree of parasitic adaption to its maintenance-host species and this is reflected in the nidality of leptospirosis in intensive farming environments. Accidental infections in domestic animals and man are the consequence of ecological associations with maintenance-host populations for particular serovars. Control of leptospirosis in domestic animals depends on decreasing the prevalence of infection with serovars maintained within populations of domestic animals, and decreasing the degree of ecological association with free-living maintenance-host populations. Vaccination of cattle against hardjo will considerably reduce the prevalence of infection in vaccinated herds and therefore decrease the prevalence of accidental hardjo infections in man.

Keywords: Bacterial; Epidemiology; Human; Leptospirosis; Livestock

Document Type: Book Review

Publication date: July 1, 1981

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