Campaign Against Weils Disease
Water activities are pursued by thousands of people each week and whilst drowning, cramp and hypothermia are considered common risks, there is another less obvious but very real danger.
Leptospirosis, commonly known as Weil’s disease, is a bacterial infection spread by rats. Those who enjoy or work with water are particularly vulnerable to contracting this disease due to the fact that it is most commonly passed to humans through water contaminated by rat urine.
Worryingly, research as part of National Vaccination Month 2009 (1-30 June), a campaign to encourage more people to safeguard their pets’ health with vital vaccination, has shown that vets have seen an increase in leptospirosis this year.
Leptospirosis can be passed from animals (including dogs) to humans and anyone can get the disease but it is more common in adult men and people who:
• Work on farms or handle animals (wild, or farmed animals and rodents)
• Are in contact with canals, rivers and other watercourses
• Work in drainage ditches and sewers
• Engage in recreational activities on the water ie swim and scuba dive, canoe, sail, windsurf
• Go caving and underground exploring
Recent leptospirosis cases include; Mother-of-three Carol Colburn died in May 2008 after contracting Weil’s Disease an acute infection which develops due to leptospirosis after being scratched when she attempted to free a rat caught in her garden bird feeder at her home near Brighton. Leptospirosis was also confirmed in August 2007 in a person who regularly canoes on the River Thames.
Infection can occur through cuts in the skin or through the mouth, nose and eyes. The symptoms are similar to those of flu and can require hospital treatment. However, if you know you may come into contact with untreated water such as canals, lakes and rivers, you can minimise the risk of infection by taking the following precautions:
• Cover any cuts, sores or grazes with waterproof plasters or gloves.
• Disinfect any wounds that occur.
• Wash your hands or cover food with a wrapper before you eat.
• Do not put your hand in your mouth after immersing in river water
• Do not touch dead animals, especially rats.
Warnings about the need for animal infectious diseases and vaccination are being spelled out as part of the second National Vaccination Month Campaign which aims to highlight the fact that more than half of all cats and dogs and 90% of rabbits are not currently vaccinated against a range of serious diseases, some of which are fatal, widespread and on the increase. What’s more, over a quarter of vets surveyed were concerned that vaccination levels across all species were falling as a result of the credit crunch.
To increase the numbers of animals vaccinated and help pet owners feeling the pinch, during June, participating vets will be offering unvaccinated cats and dogs or those whose immunity has lapsed, a full course of vaccination for the price of a booster giving a saving of up to £30.
Owners of unvaccinated rabbits will be offered vaccination against the killer disease myxomatosis for their pet with the second inoculation due in December provided free of charge.
Horse owners are also being given the chance to vaccinate their animals against tetanus, a disease that can strike at any time often with tragic consequences.
TV personality, Kate Humble, who has recently adopted a dog from the RSPCA, is supporting the campaign.
Kate said: "I am pleased to be supporting National Vaccination Month 2009. The campaign highlights just how important it is for pet owners to take on board the need for good preventative health care for their animals throughout their whole lives. This includes good basic hygiene in the home as well as regular health checks, worming and control of unwanted nasties such as fleas. Taking your pet to the vet to be vaccinated is also a great way of giving your animal a regular health MOT.
"It is worrying that all too many owners start off with good intentions by getting puppies and kittens inoculated but fail to keep vaccinations up to date needlessly exposing much loved family pets to potentially life-threatening illnesses. The National Vaccination Month campaign is not only offering a welcome bonus to these owners with its offer of reduced cost vaccination throughout June, but through its website www.vaccinationmonth.co.uk, it is providing a great source of help and advice."