Weil's Disease - a warning to waterways users

You may have seen the news that Olympic medal winner Andy Holmes was seriously ill with Weil’s disease and subsequently passed away this weekend.

Weil’s disease or Leptospirosis is contracted through contact with water carrying urine from infected animals (especially rats and cattle). As well as being notorious amongst water-sports participants, it has also been known to affect canal users (more information in this ROSPA article).

Whilst the disease is actually very rare, it is easy to neglect when caught and delayed treatment can be fatal.

One should be very careful with any stagnant or dirty water – such as unused canal arms – where rats might thrive. Be especially cautious if one has to clear a fouled prop in such waters; under such circumstances it would be sensible to wear rubber gloves especially if one has recent cuts or wounds.

We would encourage all users of our waterways networks to be ever vigilant against this nasty disease and if in doubt, to seek medical advice with the utmost urgency. The symptoms are not unlike the beginnings of ‘flu and, if caught early, can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics.

1 comment to Weil’s Disease – a warning to waterways users

  • Debbie Figueiredo of British Waterways writes:

    It would be worth advising people to be particularly careful in London. I have come across 2 confirmed cases and one suspected case of Weil's disease in boaters in West London within the last 2 months, one following prolonged immersion when the boater struggled to get out of the water having being knocked in by his dog.

    It is a thoroughly nasty illness which can cause long term ill health or disability.


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