Weil’s Disease

Below are the key facts relating to this disease, which is of particular concern to cavers.

  • Weil’s disease is spread by animals including rats and cattle.
  • You can be infected via cuts or eyes, nose or throat.
  • If you are infected you have a 1 in 20 chance of dying if not treated promptly.
  • Symptoms usually develop between 7 and 21 days after infection.
  • Symptoms include severe headache, chills, muscle aches and vomiting.
  • Later symptoms may include: return of fever, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or a rash.
  • If you suspect you are infected, see your GP immediately and give them this e-leaflet.
  • Treat with antibiotics as soon as possible.
  • Diagnosis confirmed by blood test.

Prevention

  • Cover cuts.
  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Shower after caving.
  • Avoid stagnant or slow-moving water.
  • Drinking or diving in contaminated water heightens your chance of infection.

Remember there are other waterborne diseases too.

This is a quick summary. For further, more detailed information available, click here:

Weil's Disease Cards

We will shortly be producing small cards with a summary of the key information. The text is as follows:

Front of Card Reverse of Card
WEIL’S DISEASE
Weil’s Disease: a bacterial infection spread by the urine of rats and cattle which can contaminate cave waters. It can enter the body through breaks in the skin or via the eyes, nose or throat.
Mostly Weil’s Disease resembles an attack of flu but it does kill around 5% of people infected in England and Wales.
Symptoms usually develop 7 to 21 days after initial infection. Early symptoms can include: severe headache, chills, muscle aches and vomiting. Later symptoms may include: return of fever, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or a rash.
WEIL’S DISEASE CAN BE A FATAL ILLNESS IF UNTREATED.
If you become ill after caving and have any of the above symptoms, CALL YOUR GP IMMEDIATELY. Tell your doctor you may have been in contact with Weil’s Disease and show this card or BCA’s e-leaflet.
IF SUSPECTED, ADMINISTER ANTIBIOTICS IMMEDIATELY.
Testing for the disease: A blood test is usually undertaken to confirm this illness. The sample should be sent direct to:
RIPL, Public Health England, Manor Farm Road, Porton Down, Wiltshire, SP4 0JG. Tel 01980 612 348 using the form supplied at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/346000/P1_Rare_and_Imported_Pathogens.pdf
Issued by the BRITISH CAVING ASSOCATION see http://www.british-caving.org.uk 2015