Weil's disease (leptospirosis) is a bacterial infection carried in the urine of mammals. It contaminates water and banks of canals, ponds, rivers and ditches. The risk of infection is especially high in slow moving rivers or stagnant water.
The disease is spread to humans when broken skin or mucous membranes come into contact with water or mud contaminated by rat urine.
The people most at risk are those exposed to contaminated water or river banks due to occupation or leisure interests. These include practical conservation projects on slow moving water and habitat surveys on river banks as well as canoeing, sailing, water skiing and other water sports.
The disease is serious and needs hospital treatment. The illness can quickly lead to kidney or liver failure which could be fatal. Recent statistics show that although Weil's disease is very rare, one infected person in nineteen is likely to die as a result of infection.
Symptoms start 3 to 19 days after exposure to the contaminated water. The early symptoms are similar to flu, with aching joints, raised temperature and muscle pains, especially in the calf muscles. If these symptoms occur, contact your doctor immediately, advising him or her of your possible exposure to the Weil's disease bacteria. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential for recovery from the illness.
Cover with waterproof plasters or gloves, all scratches, cuts, sores and skin affected by eczema etc.
Put wet fishing line, ropes or other objects in your mouth.
Wash your hands before you eat. Always wash or shower after any water sports or conservation work.
Go in or near water without wearing footwear. Avoid capsizing in canoes etc.
But if necessary use a mask or nose clip. Always wash or shower afterwards
Pick up or touch dead animals especially rats without wearing gloves
See you doctor if you feel unwell following involvement in water sports or conservation work
Leave food bait or ground bait on river banks. Please take your rubbish home
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