Neath and Tennant Canals Trust

Affiliated to the Inland Waterways

23 August 2019

Leptospirosis; Know the Risks

Anyone who is in contact with canal and river waters should be aware of the risk of contracting Leptospirosis.

There are two types of Leptospirosis that can affect persons in the UK.

Weil's Disease
This is a serious and sometimes fatal infection that is transmitted to humans by contact with urine from infected rats.

Hardjo
The Hardjo form of Leptospirosis is transmitted from cattle to humans.

What are the symptoms?
Both diseases start with a flu-like illness with a persistent and severe headache.

Who is at risk?
Anyone is at risk who is exposed to rats, rat or cattle urine or to foetal fluids from cattle. Farmers are now the main group at risk from both Weil's disease and cattle Leptospirosis: the cattle form is a special risk for dairy farmers. Other workers who have contracted Leptospirosis in recent years include: vets, meat inspectors, butchers, abattoir and sewer workers. Workers in contact with canal and river water are also at risk.

How might I catch it?
The bacteria can get into your body through cuts and scratches and through the lining of the mouth, throat and eyes after contact with infected urine or contaminated water, such as sewers, ditches, ponds, and slow-flowing rivers. Rat urine may also contaminate animal feed stuffs on farms.

How can I prevent it?
Get rid of rats. Don't touch them with unprotected hands. Cover all cuts and broken skin with waterproof plasters before and during work. Wear protective clothing. Wash your hands after handling any animal, or any contaminating clothing, water or other materials, and always before eating or drinking.

What else should I do?
Report any illness to your doctor. Tell the doctor if you have been near rivers or streams. Leptospirosis is much less severe if is treated promptly. There is no evidence of this disease on the canal but parents should be aware of the possible consequences when allowing their children to swim in the canal

This information is reproduced from a leaflet published by the Health and Safety Executive.

 


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