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03 Oct 2022

Public warned of risk of Weil’s Disease following heavy rainfall

Public warned of risk of Weil’s Disease following  heavy rainfall

Infected urine or contaminated water can be found in sewers, ditches, ponds, canals and slow-flowing rivers and riverbanks

 Leptospirosis or Weil's Disease is an infection frequently found both in domestic and wild animals, and can spread to humans through contact with rat or dog urine or foetal fluids from cattle.

Infected urine or contaminated water can be found in sewers, ditches, ponds, canals and slow-flowing rivers and riverbanks. 

Dr. Graham Fry, Founder of the Tropical Medical Bureau, says the risk of Leptospirosis in Ireland is high over the next few days due to the severe rainfall, following the country’s heat wave.

According to Dr. Fry:

“Leptospirosis can be spread to humans through freshwater exposure, rivers and lakes, in Ireland. This is frequently associated with heavy rains after a prolonged dry spell where the water washes infected urine into the rivers and lakes where humans then go swimming.”

If a person comes into contact with infected urine, the bacteria which causes Leptospirosis can get into the body through cuts and scratches and through the lining of the mouth, throat and eyes. 

Symptoms of Leptospirosis

Flu-like symptoms are common in people with Leptospirosis, including persistent and severe headaches, muscle pains and chills.

In some cases, infected individuals can develop meningitis. In rare cases the disease can develop into the severe form known as Weil's Disease, which can cause liver and kidney failure. This can be fatal in a small number of cases.

Individuals should be aware of the current risk of Leptospirosis following Ireland’s heat wave and subsequent heavy rainfall. Persons that experience a flu-like illness within a three-week period after engaging in a water-based activity should contact your GP and explain concerns and possible freshwater exposure.

Any high fever and more serious symptoms within a two or three-week period may necessitate a very urgent trip to casualty as this can be an absolute life-threatening condition.

How to Reduce Risk of Leptospirosis

To reduce the risk of contracting Leptospirosis, people are advised to avoid swimming in water which is obviously polluted. Dr. Fry continues “If individuals are going swimming or taking part in water activities in the coming few days, ensure any cuts or abrasions are covered with a waterproof dressing while swimming or canoeing and to shower thoroughly following water activities”

Individuals should ensure any cuts acquired during swimming, fishing or other near-water activities are cleaned and first aid is applied as soon as possible.

Leptospirosis is especially common in tropical regions around the world. However, Ireland does report outbreaks of Leptospirosis, with approximately 20 cases on average per year.

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