Several dogs and a person in Laramie County have recently been diagnosed with leptospirosis, the Wyoming Department of Health and Wyoming Livestock Board announced Friday.

Also known as Weil's disease, leptospirosis is a rare, potentially deadly bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals.

Many animals can carry the bacteria, including cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents, and wildlife, which can get into water or soil and survive there for weeks to months.

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State officials say the human case -- an individual with occupational exposure to animals -- is believed to be Wyoming's first on record.

"Leptospirosis is extremely rare in humans,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Emily Curren. “But we want to let people know about the potential risk right now, especially local dog owners.”

Leptospirosis can cause a wide range of symptoms in humans, including high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rash, but the signs in pets vary and are nonspecific.

Without treatment, leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.

"If you think your pet may have leptospirosis, contact your veterinarian immediately," said Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Hallie Hasel.

Officials recommend these precautions to help prevent leptospirosis:

  • Wear gloves and practice good hand hygiene if coming in contact with the urine of an infected pet.
  • Dog owners should consult with their veterinarian about vaccinating their dogs for leptospirosis. The leptospirosis vaccine may not have been included with other routine vaccinations.
  • Avoid swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine.
  • Reduce rodent habitats around the home, workplace, and recreational areas by removing brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and possible rodent food supplies.

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To prepare yourself for a potential incident, always keep your vet's phone number handy, along with an after-hours clinic you can call in an emergency. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center also has a hotline you can call at (888) 426-4435 for advice.

Even with all of these resources, however, the best cure for food poisoning is preventing it in the first place. To give you an idea of what human foods can be dangerous, Stacker has put together a slideshow of 30 common foods to avoid. Take a look to see if there are any that surprise you.

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