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How are New Zealand farmers helping to prevent leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a fairly prevalent disease in farm animals, which is why it's of paramount importance to have your herd vaccinated against the illness. As you'll know, it's not just animals that can become infected with the disease – it can be passed onto humans, too.

According to the New Zealand Ministry Of Health, the majority of human leptospirosis cases – also known as Weil's disease – are found in those that work in the meat processing industry, or that have recently visited a farm. However, there is less chance of the human form of leptospirosis occurring should the animals there have been vaccinated. Therefore, it just goes to show how vital this vaccination is in the dairy farming industry, and now a survey is underway to figure out how effective the current programme is.

Get your jab in

The pilot study, carried out by Massey University between 2010 and 2011, discovered that some 13 per cent of cows analysed were actually shedding leptospires, despite the understanding that they had been vaccinated. Approximately 30 per cent of 44 herds in Manawatu, Waikato and Southland were found to be carrying traces of the disease, which is why the overall effectiveness of the vaccination was brought into question.    

One of the main aims of the new survey is to lower the risk of leptospirosis in farm animals by quizzing the farmers on their vaccination procedures, analysing blood and urine samples, and taking into consideration other factors that could be used to improve leptospirosis immunity. 

"Ultimately, this research will be used to update best practice guidelines for farmers, veterinarians and industry stakeholders, to reduce the risk of leptospirosis infection in both animals and the people that work on farms and in the dairy industry," said Professor Cord Heuer, from Massey University's Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, in a press release.

The research will be carried out on randomly selected dairy farms, with the farmers themselves contacted for permission in due course.

Vaccinating your herd is essential in the fight against leptospirosis.