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Leptospirosis Found in Sea Lions on Oregon Coast: Humans and Pet Owners Exercise Caution

Some of the dead or dying sea lions being found on the Oregon Coast are infected with the bacteria that causes leptospirosis infection. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease that is transmissible to pets and people. People should stay at least 50 feet away from a beached sea mammal and keep their dogs on a leash to avoid contact with sea lions.

State Public Health Veterinarian Emilio DeBess says people should be cautious, but not unduly worried about the bacteria.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals. In people, the symptoms are often flu-like. The risk of getting leptospirosis through common contact with a dog is low; the primary mode of transmission is through contact with contaminated animal urine. Symptoms in dogs include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, refusal to eat, severe weakness and depression, renal disease, and liver dysfunction. Risk factors for dogs include contaminated water and contact with cattle, rats or raccoon urine.

Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics. To help prevent leptospirosis, vaccinate your dog and keep rodents under control. A vaccine can protect your dogs against the four most common versions of Leptospirosis: L. canicola, L. icterohaemorrhagiae, L. pomona and L. grippotyphosa. Note, however, that a vaccine cannot provide 100% guaranteed protection due to the many strains of this bacteria.