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Queensland has experienced a spike in cases of the bacterial disease leptospirosis – with numbers almost doubling in 2021 compared to this time last year.
To date this year*, Queensland has recorded 78 cases of leptospirosis across the state compared to 41 cases at the same time last year. This is a 70% increase compared with the five-year mean (year to date).
In 2020, a total of 81 cases were recorded, and 56 cases in 2019.
Leptospirosis cases in Queensland 2019-2021 include:
|Hospital and Health Service||1 January to May 9 2021||1 January to May 9 2020||1 Jan to 31 Dec 2020|
|Cairns & Hinterland||39||27||56|
*All data is as at 09 May 2021.
Leptospirosis notifications in NSW residents, by month of disease onset. January 2017 to August 2021.
Source: NSW Health Notifiable Conditions Information Management System (NCIMS), Communicable Diseases Branch and Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, NSW Health.
What is leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of humans and animals. It is caused by Leptospira bacteria that are excreted in urine from infected animals including mice, rats, cattle, pigs and dogs.
Leptospirosis is a reportable disease to QLD and NSW Public health units.
In the 2018, NSW outbreak of Leptospirosis, our Occupational Physicians were called in to assist NSW public health officials and a large corporate group to advise and educate the employees, the employer and local general practitioners on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the spread of Leptospirosis.
With the recommendations implemented by our Occupational Physicians, the containment of further leptospirosis amongst the workers, was significantly reduced, in fact lowering the recorded cases for almost 2 years on previous 5 year average.
The recent mice plague now occurring in rural NSW and Queensland’s western and northern areas have seen a significant spike in reported cases of Leptospirosis.
How is it spread?
- Leptospira bacteria usually enter the body through skin cuts or abrasions, and occasionally through the lining of the mouth, nose, and eyes.
- Infections are usually associated with exposure to water, soil or mud contaminated with the urine from infected animals.
- Many different animals can harbour Leptospira bacteria in their kidneys.
- Eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water has occasionally been responsible for transmission.
- Leptospirosis is not generally spread from person to person
How is it prevented?
There are a number of ways to prevent leptospirosis.
- Cover cuts and abrasions with a waterproof dressing.
- Wear protective clothing (for example, gloves, eye shields or goggles, aprons and boots) when working with animals that could be infected, especially if there is a chance of contact with urine.
- Wear gloves when handling cattle placentas or stillborn or aborted calves or carcasses.
- Shower after work and wash and dry hands after handling potentially infected material.
- Do not eat or smoke while handling animals that may be infected. Wash and dry hands before smoking or eating.
For other workers and general public:
- Treat water to make it safe to drink by boiling or using an appropriate chemical treatment, especially if collecting from a source that could be contaminated by floodwater runoff.
- Avoid swimming or wading in water, or swallowing floodwater or any fresh water source where there is a possibility of contamination with animal urine or floodwater runoff.
- Cover cuts and abrasions with waterproof dressings, especially before coming into contact with soil, mud or water that may be contaminated with animal urine.
- Wear waterproof protective clothing and footwear outdoors, especially when walking in mud or moist soil.
- Wear gloves when gardening.
- Control rodents by cleaning up rubbish and removing food sources that are close to housing.
- Avoid eating food that rodents may have had access to.
- Do not feed raw offal to dogs.
- Wash hands with soap, as Leptospira bacteria are quickly killed by soap, disinfectants, and drying.
How can OccPhyz Consulting assist?
Our Occupational and Environmental Physicians are experts in diagnosing, and prevention of spread of Leptospirosis amongst the community. We can:
- Provide a worksite assessment to identify high risk areas of contamination, and methods of transmission.
- Provide preventive measures for the workers and their environment
- Provide education sessions on Leptospirosis to the employer, workers and local community including general practice clinics