Weil's Disease Advice

About Weils Disease / Leptospirosis

Weils Disease / Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis, commonly referred to as Weils disease, is a widespread bacterial disease that affects both humans and animals. Many different animals carry the bacterium that causes this disease but often they will show no signs of illness themselves. Common carriers are cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents and other wild animals.

Humans become infected through contact with water, food or soil containing the bacteria which has been distributed by the urine from these infected animals, the most common of which, as far as anglers are concerned, is the rat.

The most usual way of contracting the disease is by eating contaminated food or through skin contact, especially with mucosal surfaces, such as the eyes or nose, or through broken skin such as scratches or cuts.

The symptoms of this disease, which normally develop between 2 to 19 days after exposure, are initially very similar to those of common influenza, which are fever, chills, headache, vomiting and diarrhoea. However, if not diagnosed and treated correctly they can quickly develop into kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure and respiratory distress leading to death in some cases. Fortunately, if correctly diagnosed, this disease is easily treated with modern antibiotics.

It is therefore extremely important that you make your doctor aware of the possibility of Weils disease if you develop ‘flu like symptoms that do not clear quickly.

Of course prevention is far better than cure, which is why the Angling Trust recommends a number of simple precautions that anglers can take to avoid contracting this disease. It is recommended that clubs seriously consider printing these precautions in membership books etc. They can also supply at a very reasonable cost small cards containing this information for distribution to your members. The advice we give is:


  • Cover any cuts, sores or scratches with waterproof plasters or gloves;
  • Carry disinfectant and disinfect any wounds that occur at the waterside;
  • Wash your hands or handle food with a wrapper before you eat;
  • Do not put your hand in your mouth after immersing in river/lake water and never place bait or fishing line in your mouth;
  • Do not touch dead animals, especially rats;
  • If you develop flu like symptoms that persist tell you doctor that you may have been exposed to Leptospirosis so that they can consider it in the diagnosis;
  • Do not leave food, ground bait or bait on the bank side.

There are a number of products on the market that may also help in reducing the chances of contracting this disease.  One of these is the ‘Breakout’ range produced by Future Developments Ltd.

There are three products in the range that could be of use to anglers. There is a spray can containing foam that is sprayed onto the hands and then wiped off with a clean cloth or tissue.
Perhaps of more use to anglers are the new hand wipes in this range, which come in a pack small enough to slip into your tackle box. If your fishery has a serious rat problem then there is also a spray that can be diluted with water and simply sprayed onto the areas that rats use that will kill the bacteria in situ.

Details of these products can be found on the following web sites: