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Weils Disease can be fatal, warns Water Safety Body

21st September 2009
Weils Disease can be fatal, warns Water Safety Body

Irish Water Safety (IWS) is highlighting the dangers of Weil's disease during this week's National Ploughing Championships. Farmers and others are at risk of contracting Weils disease and IWS are distributing an awareness leaflet at the Championships to highlight the dangers so that people can stay safe from this acute, infectious disease.

When visiting the National Ploughing Championships, find out more about this disease and other risks on the farm as well as all aspects of water safety training and awareness at Irish Water Safety's Stand, Row M Stand 342.

What is Weil's Disease? The condition, also known as Leptospirosis, is an acute, infectious disease. It is caused by different types of one bacterium, of which there are over 200 known strains. Weil's Disease is spread in the urine of infected animals such as rats and in water or soil contaminated with infected urine. The bacteria thrive in wet and moist conditions and can survive for months in stagnant water or wet soil.

Contracting the Disease  The infection enters through broken, grazed or cut skin, especially on the hands and feet and sometimes through the lining of the mouth, nose and eyes. It can also be picked up while wading or swimming in infected water.

Symptoms  Symptoms may include fever, headaches, chills, severe muscle pain in the calves and thighs, vomiting, diarrhea and bloodshot eyes. Sometimes the fever may fluctuate and other symptoms such as a rash, jaundice, confusion, depression, kidney failure, liver failure and meningitis may occur. The incubation period is usually ten days but can range from 4 to 19 days. If symptoms persist, please contact your GP.

Who is at Risk?  Farmers, effluent treatment plant staff, sewer workers, refuse collection and processing workers, underground cable laying and maintenance workers, miners, gardeners, abattoir workers, animal care workers, people who use water for recreational purposes, fishermen, boating and canoeing enthusiasts, outdoor pursuits enthusiasts (i.e. hill walkers, campers, Scouts), rescue service workers, fire service personnel, army and Garda personnel.



- Adhere to a rigid hygiene policy

- Cover all cuts, scratches and abrasions with a waterproof dressing

- Wear protective clothing, especially gloves when handling soil, vegetation, animal feeds, tools or equipment that may be contaminated

- Avoid touching mouth and nose

- Foodstuffs should not be consumed in the work area

- Do not go swimming or boating in water that is obviously polluted

- Cover any cuts or abrasions with a waterproof dressing while swimming or canoeing

- Shower thoroughly following water activities

- Wash your hands after handling any animal or contaminated clothing and always before eating, drinking or smoking

- Animal workers should consult a vet about cattle infection and both they and sewer workers should wear protective clothing

- If you get a flu-like illness within a three-week period after engaging in any of these activities, you should visit your doctor immediately, and tell them of your fears and possible exposure to the disease

- Spray all suspect work areas with an approved product. On completion of work, decontaminate all protective clothing, tools and equipment with an approved solution. Sanitise hands thoroughly before eating and on completion of work.


Published in News Update Team

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