What is Weil’s Disease/ Leptospirosis/ Leptospiral Jaundice?

Weil’s Disease or Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that initially has similar symptoms to the common influenza. Many different animals can spread this disease, but most commonly it is rats that are associated with its transmission. Leptospirosis is known by many different names, but due to its association with rats, it is also known as Weil’s Disease, rat catcher’s yellows or rat fever. Leptospirosis is transmitted from the rat in its urine, which in turn can contaminate water. The bacteria then enter the body through small cuts in the skin or through the eyes, nose and mouth.

Even though it is quite widespread in rats within the UK, there are fewer than 100 confirmed cases of Leptospirosis in the UK annually and very rarely any mortalities. People at the highest risk include: agricultural workers, vets, sewer workers, water sport enthusiasts and last, but not least, pest controllers!

It is also common for outbreaks of Leptospirosis to occur after natural disasters. In the past few months, the state of Kerala in India has experienced some of the worst flooding in a century which has led to vast amounts of contaminated water. The floods themselves have killed in excess of 400 people, but they have now had to declare a health alert for Leptospirosis as over 60 people have died, and it is thought a further 800 people have contracted Leptospirosis.

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