Health & Safety

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Weil's Disease (Leptospirosis)

28 March 2009

The disease Leptospirosis is caused by leptospira bacteria. It is transmitted to humans by contact with the urine of rats, cattle, foxes, rodents and other wild animals, usually by contact with contaminated soil or water. There are many different types of leptospira bacteria, each tends to be associated with a specific animal species.

two mice

The bacteria enters the body via cuts to the skin, or via the nose, mouth or other mucous membranes. In most cases the infection causes a flu-like illness and severe headaches. Leptospirosis starts about 10 days (it can vary between 7-12 days) after infection with the bacteria, and may be so mild as to be unsuspected

The severe form of the disease (Weil's disease) causes jaundice and liver damage and carries a reported death rate anywhere between 4-40%. Only about 10-15% of affected people suffer this more dangerous form.

Leptospirosis is rare in the UK, and Weil's disease is extremely rare. However, Weil's Disease is a very serious illness, and must be swiftly diagnosed and treated.

Leptospirosis can be prevented by avoiding water environments that may be contaminated with rats urine or the urine of other animals.