Weil’s Disease (Leptospirosis)


The chances of contracting Weil’s disease are very low – but if the illness is contracted, and not diagnosed at an early stage, the consequences are usually serious, and sometimes fatal.

The disease is an infection caused by bacteria carried in rats’ urine, which can contaminate water in and around lakes, ponds, ditches, sewers, rivers and canals.

Unless you get wet, you don’t have to worry – it is more of a concern for the skipper and crew.

However, if you do handle wet ropes, and/or immerse your hands, feet, or any other part of your body, it is important to wash the relevant part(s) thoroughly, as soon as possible afterwards, and especially before eating, drinking smoking etc.

If you were to fall into the water, take a shower and change your clothes.

Infection is unlikely unless contaminated water has got into the eyes, nose or mouth, or comes into contact with broken skin, etc.

The early symptoms would occur 3 to 19 days after significant contact with contaminated water, and are similar to ‘flu, including a high temperature, and muscle pains, especially affecting the calf muscles. Other symptoms include conjunctivitis and/or jaundice.

The absence of any of these symptoms would not mean that the illness is not Weil’s disease, and one symptom alone wouldn’t necessarily mean that it is Weil’s disease.

If you feel ill, after having been actively involved in boating on the inland waterways, see your Doctor, and tell him/her why you are concerned about the possibility of Weil’s. Ask if you can have an ‘Elisa’ blood test, which is conclusive.

Early diagnosis and treatment is essential for recovery from the illness.