Health & Safety Update – Weils Disease (Leptospirosis)

Weils disease has recently been in the news headlines due to the untimely death of ex Olympic Rower, Andy Holmes. It is likely that the rower caught the disease from dirty river water, it is however, something we must all be aware of.

What is Weil’s disease?

Weil’s disease (leptospirosis) is a serious and sometimes fatal infection that is transmitted to humans by contact with urine from infected rats.

What are the symptoms?

Weil’s disease starts with a flu-like illness with a persistent and severe headache, which can lead to vomiting and muscle pains and ultimately to jaundice, meningitis and kidney failure. In rare cases the diseases can be fatal.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who is exposed to rats, rat or cattle urine or to fetal fluids from cattle is at risk.
Farmers are now the main group at risk but construction workers and workers in contact with canal and river water are also at risk.

How is it contracted?

The bacteria can get into your body through cuts and scratches and through the lining of the mouth, throat and eyes after contact with infected urine or contaminated water, such as in sewers, ditches, ponds and slow-flowing rivers.

How can I prevent it?

Wash cuts and grazes immediately with soap and running water and cover all cuts and broken skin with waterproof plasters before and during work.
Wear protective clothing.
Wash your hands after working in areas which could be infected before eating, drinking or smoking.

What else should I do?

Report any illness to your doctor and let them know about your work. Leptospirosis is much less severe if it is treated promptly. If your doctor decides you have leptospirosis tell the Company who will then report it to the Incident Contact Centre.