AIMS: To determine the seroprevalence and quantify putative risk factors for exposure to leptospirosis both within and outside the veterinary curriculum among undergraduate veterinary students at Massey University, New Zealand.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted from September 2010 to November 2011. In total, 302 students were blood sampled, with serum tested by microscopic agglutination test (MAT) for antibodies to Leptospira borgpetersenii serovars Hardjobovis, Leptospira interrogans Pomona and Leptospira borgpetersenii Ballum. Information on demographic characteristics, potential exposure within and outside the veterinary curriculum in the previous 18 months, and previous leptospirosis-like clinical history were recorded using an online questionnaire.
RESULTS: All students were MAT negative for each serovar, using a cut-point of ≥1:48. Potential exposure to animal urine within and outside the veterinary curriculum was reported by 259/302 (85.8%) and 150/302 (49.7%) of the students, respectively. The median number of potential exposures to animal urine by each student within the veterinary curriculum in the previous 18 months was 63 (min 1, max 155). The other potential exposures among respondents included home slaughter (63/302; 20.9%), hunting (43/302; 14.2%) and outdoor activities involving exposure to fresh water (241/302; 79.8%).
CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrated that these veterinary students were at low risk of contracting leptospirosis, despite frequent exposure to potential sources of infection. The findings in this study contribute to a broader understanding of the occupational risk of leptospirosis. Data describe the level of animal exposure in veterinary students, which can support other zoonotic disease studies in this group.
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