Leptospirosis is passed to us through the urine of wild animals infected with the leptospira bacteria.
Infected animal urine can get washed into recreational and coastal waters after heavy rainfall. So all watersports junkies, both fresh and salty, are at risk.
You can pick up this potentially deadly disease when contaminated water comes into contact with your eyes, mouth, nose, or through open wounds.
The severe form of leptospirosis is known as Weil’s disease. In 2010 Olympic rowing champion Andy Holmes died of Weil’s disease. Apparently the bacteria entered his body through blisters on his hands.
What are the symptoms?
In 90% of cases:
• Banging headache
• Aching muscles
• Sore eyes
However, in extreme cases the disease may spread to your liver, kidney, heart, brain and/or lungs. This may lead to:
• Coughing up blood
What can you do to treat it?
Usually the effects of leptospirosis are mild and can be treated with antibiotics over the course of a week.
If you’re not better after seven days of treatment, contact a medical professional.
If you’re one of the really unlucky 10% who suffer severe leptospirosis, you’ll be rushed to hospital.
How can you prevent it?
Avoid fresh water rivers, lakes and coastal waters located near agricultural land, during and following heavy rainfall.
Cover any open wounds with a waterproof dressing before entering the water.