Leptospirosis strain found in alpaca
A leptospirosis strain has been found in New Zealand alpaca for the first time.
The disease is a known dairy cow complaint, which is sometimes passed on to dairy and abattoir workers.
New findings that alpacas are also vulnerable to the disease were revealed at the International Leptospirosis Society Conference.at Palmerston North. In humans it can appear as a minor flu-like sickness, but may put some people in intensive care at hospital with lasting kidney or liver damage.
Massey University member of the Leptospirosis Research Group, Dr Julie Collins-Emerson, said it was a surprise to researchers that a veterinarian testing a dog clear for the disease, found it in alpacas at a neighbouring property.
She said leptospirosis was confirmed in a breeding alpaca herd in Manawatu¯ .
Two young alpacas died from the disease and 12 other pregnant alpacas aborted.
Researchers believe only a few cases exist in South America of alpacas found with leptospirosis.
Massey leptospirosis researcher, Associate Professor Jackie Benschop said people were often in close contact with alpacas because they liked to get close to them because of their appearance and they were often on lifestyle properties, with other livestock such as kune kune pigs. She said other species could get leptospirosis and pass them on to people.
She said any mammal could get the disease, including rats, pigs as well as dairy cows.
Collins-Emerson said there was growing concern about the impact of the disease, which is zoonotic, which means it could cross over to humans.
She said most dairy cows were vaccinated, but there was a strain of the disease, common in New Zealand, which was outside the vaccination range.
She said dairy workers were more likely to be infected because dairy cows were handled twice a day. The disease is usually passed to humans from the urine of infected animals.
Collins-Emerson said beef cattle and sheep could have the disease, but because they did not come into contact with humans as often, it was rarely passed on and because leptospirosis had little impact on the animals, it often went unnoticed.
Collins-Emerson said farmers were more aware of leptospirosis.
Members of the Massey University Leptospirosis Research Group (left) Neville Haack, Dr Jackie Benschop, Dr Julie CollinsEmerson and Professor Cord Heuer.