Public Health Agency of Canada
Travel Health Advisory
Feb 15, 2005

Leptospirosis in Guyana

The Public Health Agency of Canada is closely monitoring an outbreak of leptospirosis in Guyana.

Excessive rainfall in Guyana in mid-January has caused flooding in coastal regions, including the capital city of Georgetown, and has resulted in an outbreak of leptospirosis in the country. As of February 6, 43 patients suspected of leptospirosis infection have been admitted to hospitals in Georgetown. At this time, 2 deaths from the disease have been confirmed and an additional 9 deaths believed to have resulted from leptospirosis are pending final laboratory confirmation by the Caribbean Epidemiology Center (CAREC) in Trinidad.

The Pan American Health Organization and the Ministry of Health in Guyana are actively monitoring for new cases of leptospirosis and are implementing measures including the distribution of prophylaxis (preventative medication) to prevent a further increase in cases.

Source : Pan American Health Organization

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease caused by the bacteria Leptospira. It primarily affects animals, but can be transmitted to humans through water, soil or vegetation contaminated with urine from infected animals. Leptospirosis occurs worldwide in both urban and rural areas, and has been associated with such recreational activities as swimming, wading and rafting. In humid tropical and subtropical areas, where most developing countries are found, it is a greater problem than in those with a temperate climate.

Additional information on the prevention and treatment of leptospirosis can be accessed at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s disease information page on Leptospirosis.


As a reminder, the Public Health Agency of Canada strongly recommends that Canadian travellers seek an individual risk assessment consultation with their personal physician or a travel clinic prior to departure.

PHAC recommends that travellers avoid contact with potentially contaminated water. Specifically, travellers should avoid engaging in water sports (i.e., swimming, wading or rafting) in any fresh water, in areas experiencing an outbreak of leptospirosis and if possible, avoid contact with flood waters where leptospirosis may be active.

Canadian travellers who may be at high risk due to occupational or recreational activities should, where appropriate, wear protective clothing, cover wounds with waterproof dressings to reduce the chance of infection and consult a physician on the use of preventative medication.

The Agency recommends as well, that travellers who become sick or feel unwell on their return to Canada, should seek a medical assessment with their personal physician. Travellers should inform their physician, without being asked, that they have been travelling or living outside of Canada, and where they have been.

Additional information on the current situation in Guyana is detailed in the Pan American Health Organization Press Release at: