Weil’s disease & flooding:
Leptospirosis, also known as Weils disease, is a potentially fatal waterborne disease that can be found in stagnant water after floods.
Weil’s disease is caused by bacteria found in the urine of rodents, cattle and pigs. It can also be referred to as mud fever, swamp fever, swineherd’s disease and sewerman’s flu.
Humans can be infected by exposure to contaminated water, and those most at risk are usually people who take part in watersport in rivers and lakes – usually canoeing, windsurfing, swimming in lakes and rivers, pot holing and fishing.
Unfortunately with the seemingly never-ending flooding we are currently experiencing, there are stagnant pools of water in even the safest environments at the moment, and the risk is therefore heightened. Rats and mice are being driven out of their environment by the floods and there is a risk that any stagnant pools of water may be contaminated.
How Do We Get Leptospirosis?
Weils disease enters the body through cuts or scrapes, or via the nose, mouth or eyes.
Very few people exposed to contaminated water will go on to develop Weils disease, but it is thought to kill two or three people every year in the UK. Although it can often be successfully treated with antibiotics, the difficulty is in diagnosing it.
Symptoms of Weils Disease
The initial symptoms of Leptospirosis are often mistaken for flu, and can take from 3 days to 3 weeks to develop.
The symptoms can include:
- Severe headaches
- Red eyes
- Muscle pain
- Raised temperature
- Skin rash
Liver and kidney failure can develop quite quickly, leading to jaundice.
Treatment by antibiotics is effective, but it can take months to fully recover. Unfortunately diagnosis is only by blood test, and because the symptoms are so typical of a number of other illnesses, it is often too late.
Because Leptospirosis is found in contaminated water, it can be prevented by staying away from risk areas.
In the current floods the following precautions are probably a good idea, not only for Weils Disease, but also for other diseases that could be caused by water that has been contaminated by sewage getting into the water.
- Avoid walking through flood waters where possible
- Prevent children from playing in stagnant puddles and pools
- Wear wellies and other protective gear wherever possible
- Keep cuts and scratches covered with waterproof plaster wherever possible
- If you are exposed to flood waters always shower or wash as soon as possible
- Do not swallow contaminated water
The risk of contracting Weil’s disease is minimal, and our advice is be cautious but don’t panic. If you experience flu-like symptoms after exposure to flood waters it is a good idea to see your GP as a precaution.
PEST UK have a handful of clients where we feel there needs to be extra awareness of the risks, and these are mostly nursery schools where there is a risk of increased rodent activity as a result of the floods, and also the fact that damp puddles are a magnet for small children. We have alerted our clients, and advised them to be particularly vigilant at keeping their children away from water and damp areas outside. We also recommend that damp lofts, sheds and other inside areas be treated with a disinfectant after any rat or mouse infestation has been eliminated.
If you have premises where you feel there may be a potential risk the please give us a call on 0800 026 0308
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