Policy: Leptospirosis management

Policy type: Policy
Reference: 3h
Status: Current
Date ratified: November 2019


To protect human and animal health, and reduce environmental contamination with bacteria of the genus Leptospira, the New Zealand Veterinary Association believes all farming systems should implement a leptospirosis risk management plan developed in consultation with the veterinarian servicing the farm. At-risk pets should be vaccinated appropriately.


Leptospirosis is an important zoonotic disease in New Zealand. Contact with animals is the greatest risk factor for development of leptospirosis in humans.

The risk of disease in humans and animals can be reduced by an effective animal vaccination programme, however not all serovars are contained in the commercial vaccines currently available.

Additional management interventions are therefore required to further reduce the risk of disease in both humans and animals.

Farm leptospirosis risk management plan

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires that workers and other persons are protected against harm to their health, safety and welfare by eliminating or minimising risks.

Implementation of an effective farm leptospirosis risk management plan is one means of reducing the risk of harm to farm workers, veterinarians and all those with interacting with animals and/or waterways.
The NZVA believes any farm leptospirosis risk management programme should be developed with veterinary oversight, as veterinarians possess a unique skill set including:

  • An understanding of the epidemiology of leptospirosis, necessary to design and implement an effective farm risk management plan.
  • Legislative authority to authorise Restricted Veterinary Medicines (RVMs) including vaccines.
  • Professional obligation to inform users of correct storage and use of RVMs including vaccines, thus increasing likelihood of vaccine efficacy.

Leptospirosis in pets

Appropriate leptospirosis vaccination for at-risk pets should be used, and owners counselled about risks relating to leptospirosis, including when visiting farms and waterways.


  1. Farm leptospirosis risk management plans should be developed with the veterinarian delivering primary animal health care to animals within that farming system.
  2. Any farm leptospirosis risk management plan should be specific to that farming operation.
  3. An effective farm leptospirosis risk management plan consists of the following components:
    1. A comprehensive leptospirosis vaccination programme.
      1. It is important to note that not all serovars are contained in currently available commercial vaccines.
      2. All animal species associated with the farming operation should be included in the vaccination programme, as appropriate.
      3. The vaccination programme should include consideration of all animals on, and off the property (i.e. include interventions for animals from external sources).
        iv. Young animals should be fully vaccinated prior to exposure to Leptospira.
    2. Accurate record keeping and consistent follow-up regarding animal movements, vaccination dates, training of personnel, and completion of required management interventions.
    3. Training of all persons within the farming operation (including visitors) regarding:
      1. The risk posed by Leptospira in humans, animals, and the environment.
      2. Hygiene and the use of appropriate personal protective equipment.
      3. The management of leptospirosis risk from all potential host species on the property (including pets and wildlife)
    4. A comprehensive pest control programme.
    5. Appropriate management of effluent.
    6. Appropriate management of waterways and flood areas.
  4. Veterinarians should refer to the NZVA Leptosure resources for information when assisting clients to manage the risk of leptospirosis.
  5. Appropriate leptospirosis vaccination for at-risk pets should be used, and owners counselled about risks relating to leptospirosis, including when visiting farms and waterways.


Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

Worksafe: Prevention and control of Leptospirosis – good practice guideline

NZVA Leptosure programme

Heuer C. et al. (2012) Leptospirosis in New Zealand: best practice recommendations for the use of vaccines to prevent human exposure.

Preliminary findings from from the Leptospirosis Dairy Study 2016

Related pages and documents