Leptospirosis (Weil's Disease) safety

Leptospirosis is an infection caused by bacteria carried in rat’s urine which contaminates water and banks of canals, ponds, rivers and ditches. There is no vaccine for Leptospirosis. No cases have been reported in Essex for some years.


These start three to nineteen days after exposure to the bacteria. Early symptoms are flu-like including fever and muscle pains especially in the calf muscles. Other symptoms include conjunctivitis and jaundice. The disease can be diagnosed by a blood test. This disease is serious and once diagnosed requires hospital treatment. The illness can quickly lead to kidney and liver failure which can be fatal.

Occupations at risk

Workers most at risk are those exposed to contaminated water and riverbanks. This includes water workers, sewer workers, rodent control workers, environmental biologists and those who teach water sports on rivers and lakes.

Preventative measures for workers at risk

  • cover, with water proof plasters or gloves, all scratches, cuts, sores and skin affected by eczema
  • avoid getting river or pond water in your eyes, nose or mouth
  • when at work always wash your hands well before eating food
  • be aware of the symptoms of Leptospirosis and inform your doctor if you feel ill after exposure to water in ditches and ponds
  • always wear gloves when handling dead rodents
  • implement measures to reduce the rat population in areas where you work

Also see

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