Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease usually caused by exposure to contaminated water from the urine of infected animals. It affects humans and animals. Symptoms include high fevers, severe headaches, chills, muscle ache, vomiting, jaundice, stomach pain and diarrhoea. If untreated it can cause kidney damage, meningitis and liver failure may follow.
The most severe cases have a mortality rate of 20-40%. It is this advanced stage and severe form of leptospirosis experienced in 10% of cases that is referred to as weil’s disease.
Infection from food or water contaminated by urine excreted from the infected mammals usually incurs through ingestion, contact with the eyes or nose or through broken skin surfaces. The infecting bacteria cannot live long in dry conditions but can survive for up to a month in fresh water. The typical incubation period is around 7 days. Mammals, ranging from rats, pigs, dogs, horses and cattle, carry the bacteria and form a primary reservoir of infection with rats forming the most common world wide source.
Since 2000, there has been a dramatic increase in the rat population largely due to the careless disposal of increasing amounts of rubbish. As well as weil’s disease, rats carry other diseases to include e coli, salmonella and tuberculosis.
Who is at Risk?
Leptospirosis is a global condition with 10 million people contracting the disease each year. Human infection occurs with direct contact with infected urine or indirect exposure to organisms in wet soil or water and often results from occupational exposure to rat infected water.
Associated occupational hazards exist for many people who work outdoors or with animals. Occupations for which weil’s diseases is a risk includes dairy farmers, vets, meat inspectors, butchers, water, utility and sewage workers, fish farmers and pet shop owners.
How Do You Minimise the Risk of Infection?
Any people who work outdoors with animals should always cover cuts and abrasions with water proof dressings and avoid splashing themselves and/or swallowing with potentially contaminated water. Anyone experiencing flu like symptoms after contact with fresh water should immediately contact their doctor.
All employees have a duty to act sensibly when at work and to promote high standards of safety whilst limiting their exposure to risk. People who work in high risk environments relative to contracting weil’s disease should at all times promote rodent control measures, recognise and avoid ingestion of potentially contaminated soil and water, avoid wading in ponds, ditches, streams, lakes and slow moving rivers and wear proper protective clothing, footwear and gloves.
If any of the issues affect you please contact Liam Moloney, Solicitor in Naas at 045 898000 or simply log onto our website www.moloneysolicitors.ie for further information in relation to your rights.