Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Weil’s Disease (Leptospirosis)

Olympic rowing champion Andy Holmes died last week after contracting Weil’s disease (leptospirosis).  This tragic news highlights the risk to all those working with water and sewage, and of course those who use inland water for recreation, from this waterborne bacterial disease.  Globally up to 10 million people contract the disease each year, although the number of reported cases of the disease in the British Isles is around 100-150 people annually, with farmers, sewage workers, freshwater ecologists and water sport participants (i.e. canoeists, wind surfers and rowers) all in the high risk category.  Advice on safe working practices for those engaged in freshwater monitoring and research can be found in sections 9.2.3 and 13.6 in Water Technology.  The primary infection route for leptospirosis is through damaged skin. So no matter how minor the damage may be (e.g. scratches, rashes etc.) ensure that the area is covered by an effective waterproof barrier if there is a possibility that the skin will come into contact with water potentially contaminated with rat urine (i.e. almost all surface waters). For more information Link.

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