Weil's Disease

While we want you to have a great time on your Herbert Woods holiday your safety is our paramount concern. Therefore it is important to us that you are aware of one potential hazard, however remote or unlikely it is to affect you.

Leptospirosis is a disease which is thankfully extremely rare in the UK. During 2011, according to the NHS website, there were just 44 cases reported in England and Wales; of these 15 had been contracted abroad, none were fatal.

Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria called leptospira and found in animals such as rats, mice, pigs, cattle, horses, sheep and dogs. The bacteria live within the animals kidney’s and are present in its urine and can survive for several weeks in either soil or water.

It is possible to become infected with the bacteria if your mouth, eyes, nose or any open wound comes into contact with contaminated soil or water. It can also be spread through rodent bites.

The symptoms of leptospirosis usually develop seven to 14 days after exposure to the bacteria. Around 90 per cent cause mild symptoms such as a fever, chills, vomiting, headaches or loss of appetite. They usually resolve themselves within a week or can be treated with a course of antibiotics.

Unfortunately about ten per cent go on to experience serious symptoms when it is more commonly referred to as Weil’s disease. The symptoms of Weil’s disease develop a few days after the mild ones have gone.

What the symptoms are will depend on which organs have been infected which fall into three groups:

  • Liver, kidney & heart
  • Brain
  • Lungs

But all will lead to severe symptoms which can include jaundice, swollen ankles, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, seizures, inability to speak and coughing up blood.

If you have any of these symptoms you must immediately seek medical help. Those who do have Weil’s disease will be admitted to hospital and be treated with intravenous antibiotics, checked for any possible organ damage and then necessary action taken.

While leptospirosis is very rare in the UK and Weil’s disease even rarer it does make sense to take precautions.

Those taking part in freshwater activities such as swimming, sailing, skiing or windsurfing should make sure any cuts or grazes they may have are covered with a waterproof dressing. Also have a shower after finishing your activity.

Even if you have just been handling ropes that have been in the water it makes sense to give your hands a good wash – or wear gloves.

If you know you are coming into contact with animals such as rodents or where their urine may have contaminated water or soil wear adequate protective clothing.

It is always better to be safe than sorry.


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Registered Office: , Bridge Road, Potter Heigham, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR29 5JF. Telephone Number: 0800 144 4472.