(JP)Boy infected with leptospira bacteria / Hamster linked to rare illness
- Boy infected with leptospira bacteria / Hamster linked
to rare illness
Nov 20, 2001
An 11-year-old Osaka boy who kept a pet hamster is
believed to have contracted a life-threatening
leptospira bacteria infection from the animal, The
Yomiuri Shimbun learned on Tuesday.
Few cases of humans contracting leptospirosis have
been reported in recent years, according to doctors at
the Osaka City General Hospital, where the boy was
As more people keep pets, there is a greater risk that
the bacteria can be transmitted from animals to
humans, said Masashi Shiomi, chief of pediatrics at
the hospital. "People should pay close attention to
their pets' hygiene," he said.
Hamsters have become one of the most popular pets in
Japan, and as they are featured in a television
cartoon, they are especially popular with children.
The Osaka boy bought the hamster at a festival stall
in May, according to his family. Eight days later, he
was taken to a private hospital after running a fever
and suffering pain throughout his body.
He came down with ailments affecting his respiratory
system and internal organs and was moved to the larger
Although the boy suffered a heart disorder shortly
afterward, he recovered when doctors administered
emergency treatment and antibiotics. He went home
after being hospitalized for about a month.
When the doctors first saw the boy, they thought he
had contracted tuberculosis, according to the sources.
A blood test, however, revealed a large number of
Because the boy's hamster died after he was taken to
the hospital, it remains uncertain whether the hamster
was infected with the bacteria.
The details of the case will be revealed at an
academic conference to be held on Friday in Ube,
Leptospira is a spiral bacteria that replicates itself
in the bodies of rodents, and can be transmitted to
dogs, cats and cattle.
The bacteria, which is present in animal urine and
polluted water and soil, can be transmitted to human
beings via open wounds or mucous membranes. Humans
start to succumb to the disease about 10 days after
becoming infected with the bacteria.
When animals are found to be infected with leptospira,
their owners are required to report the infection to
authorities under a law on the prevention of livestock
However, under a law governing the treatment of those
infected, leptospirosis cases in humans need not be
reported. This makes it hard to pinpoint the infection
Mochinobu Okamoto, a member of the Japan Small Animal
Veterinary Association specializing in such
infections, said dogs can be vaccinated against the
"There is no worry of a hamster being infected with
leptospira if you buy it at a proper pet shop,"
Okamoto said. "But there is a possibility that
hamsters may become infected if they are raised in
Copyright 2001 The Yomiuri Shimbun
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