Outbreak of leptospirosis among triathlon participants and community residents in Springfield, Illinois, 1998

Clin Infect Dis. 2002 Jun 15;34(12):1593-9. doi: 10.1086/340615. Epub 2002 May 24.


We investigated an outbreak of leptospirosis among athletes and community residents after a triathlon was held in Springfield, Illinois. A telephone survey was conducted to collect clinical information and data on possible risk factors, community surveillance was established, and animal specimens and lake water samples were collected to determine the source of the leptospiral contamination. A total of 834 of 876 triathletes were contacted; 98 (12%) reported being ill. Serum samples obtained from 474 athletes were tested; 52 of these samples (11%) tested positive for leptospirosis. Fourteen (6%) of 248 symptomatic community residents tested positive for leptospirosis. Heavy rains that preceded the triathlon are likely to have increased leptospiral contamination of Lake Springfield. Among athletes, ingestion of 1 or more swallows of lake water was a predominant risk factor for illness. This is the largest outbreak of leptospirosis that has been reported in the United States. Health care providers and occupational and recreational users of bodies of freshwater in the United States should be aware of the risk of contracting leptospirosis, particularly after heavy rains.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Community-Acquired Infections / epidemiology*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / microbiology
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illinois / epidemiology
  • Leptospira / isolation & purification*
  • Leptospirosis / epidemiology*
  • Leptospirosis / microbiology
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Sports
  • Water Microbiology