What is Weil’s Disease?
Leptospirosis, also known as Weil’s Disease, is a potentially fatal waterborne disease which is found in stagnant water after floods.
Weil’s Disease is caused by bacteria found in the urine of rodents, cattle and pigs. It is also 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. The risk from Weil’s Disease 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 Weil’s Disease. Despite this, it can be fatal and it is thought to kill two or three people every year in the UK. Although it can often be successfully treated with antibiotics, it is difficult to diagnose.
The initial symptoms of Leptospirosis are often mistaken for flu. They take from 3 days to 3 weeks to develop and 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. Furthermore, diagnosis is only by blood test, and because the symptoms are so typical of a number of other illnesses, it is often too late.
- 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;
- Wash as soon as possible if exposed to floodwater;
- Do not swallow contaminated water.
PESTUK have a handful of clients where we feel there needs to be extra awareness of the risks, such as nurseries and schools. As a result, 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 areas be treated with a disinfectant after any rodent infestation has been eliminated.
What should I do if I think I may have Weil’s Disease?
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.
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