Vermont Investigates Leptospirosis In Strafford

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Vermont Department of Health is investigating a number of reported cases of illness with symptoms consistent with leptospirosis, a bacterial illness that is rarely seen in the northeastern states. The illness appears to be limited to people who had been swimming in the town pond in Strafford. The disease is not known to be spread from person to person, and it is treatable with antibiotics.

State health officials closed the pond as a precaution, and have alerted health care providers on both sides of the Vermont/New Hampshire border. The Health Department is conducting an investigation to identify any additional cases and to confirm the Strafford pond as the source of exposure.

Leptospirosis can be caused by exposure to water which has been contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Heavy rains this summer have increased the risk of contaminants washing into the state’s surface waters. There are no reports at this time that other ponds or swimming areas in Vermont are also impacted, however, the Heath Department urges people to be watchful for symptoms of illness.


"Anyone who spent time this summer in the Strafford pond should be alert for symptoms such as high fever, muscle aches, severe headache, chills, red eyes, and vomiting," said Cort Lohff, state epidemiologist for the Vermont Department of Health. "Call your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms - or jaundice, abdominal pain, diarrhea or rash."

A community meeting for Thursday night is being organized by the Strafford Lions Club. Health Department officials will be on hand to discuss the pond closure and answer any questions about leptospirosis. The meeting is scheduled for 6:00 P.M. Thursday, August 14, and will be held at Barrett Hall in Strafford, at the junction of Route 132 and Justin Morrill Highway.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the time from exposure to illness can be two days to four weeks. Without treatment, recovery may take several months. Illness usually begins suddenly with fever and other symptoms, and may occur in two phases. After the first phase of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhea, the patient may recover for a time but then fall sick again. If this happens, the second phase of illness may be more severe, or even life-threatening, with kidney or liver failure, or meningitis.

People who believe they may have symptoms of leptospirosis should contact their health care provider.