Weil’s disease is a bacterial disease which although generally not common, is caused by the infection called leptospirosis which is the more common manifestation of the bacteria’s infection.
Weil’s disease is a progression of that infection which is serious, can become severe, and possibly even fatal.
The bacteria is carried in the urine of animals which may show no symptoms of leptospirosis, and are just the carrier. Some animals may carry it and develop mild type symptoms.
It is potentially carried by cattle, pigs, goats, and dogs, but mostly by wild animals, especially rodents and the most likely exposure to humans from these is from rats and mice.
The bacteria lives on in damp soil and water and can pass into humans through abrasions or cuts in the skin and through the sensitive lining of the nose mouth and eyes.
Early symptoms appear after an incubation period of one to two weeks after infection and are often mistaken for ‘flu. These last for a few days before going away. They the return 3 to 4 days later, with high temperature, chills, headaches and possibly a skin rash.
This stage of leptospirosis, provided it is diagnosed correctly, if treated with appropriate antibiotics is fairly easily overcome, and normally sees a full and fairly speedy recovery.
In cases of severity it may progress into Weil’s disease which is much more serious because the bacteria has infected organs of the body such as the liver, kidneys, lungs or even brain.
The treatment of Weil’s disease is usually undertaken in hospital, where antibiotic drugs, generally penicillin or doxycycline can administered intravenously for greater effect. Hospitalisation also allows for the availability of such technology as dialysis for assistance to kidneys, ventilator to assist infected lungs depending on the area of infection.
The recovery from the infection is generally good, but Weil’s occasionally can, and does, prove fatal.
Those who expose themselves to greater risk of contracting to Weil’s disease are those involved with animals, such as farmers and vets, those whose work or pastimes involving natural and untreated water, such as fishermen, rowers, drainage workers and of course, those who would attempt to deter rat and mice infestation, pest controllers.
Trying to limit possibilities of infection, proper sanitation and rat-control measures are helpful in preventing the potential spread of the bacteria.