Leptospirosis is an acute and sometimes chronic zoonotic (transmitted between animals and man) bacterial infection in horses caused by the pathogen Leptospira interrogans. This pathogen is commonly found in wildlife, including rats and mice, and can survive in surface water, ponds, streams, or moist soil for long periods during mild temperatures.

Horses can contract leptospiral bacteria through mucous membranes of the eyes or mouth; through broken skin by contact with infected urine, blood, or tissues; eating hay or grain that has been contaminated by infected urine; or drinking from contaminated standing water.

Leptospirosis bacteria can be present in apparently healthy horses. However, it can lead to leptospirosis abortions in pregnant mares. It has also been linked to eye problems, such as equine recurrent uveitis (also known as moon blindness).

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See each month’s featured map at vdl.uky.edu/FeaturedMap.aspx.

Individuals with questions or concerns about disease outbreaks can contact University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UKVDL) at 859/257-8283.

Jacqueline Smith, PhD, MSc, BSc, Dipl. AVES, UKVDL epidemiologist and adjunct professor of epidemiology at Lincoln Memorial University, is the founder of the UKVDL Disease Mapping Initiative, a database designed to record all infectious disease cases submitted to the UKVDL.

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