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Alan de Enfield

Another case of Weil's Disease from canal water.

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Picked up from NBWorld

 

 

'Dare' caused his death

Published: Thursday, 05 December 2019

A YOUTH was 'dared' to take a cold dip in the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal in late November resulting in his death.

Joseph Cohen, aged 17, was with other teenagers on the towpath of the canal near Minworth Locks where they had swum in the summer and were 'daring' each other to take a cold dip in one of the locks, with Joseph taking up the challenge, stripping down and jumping in.

Flue-like symptoms

The subsequent report pointed out that he later suffered flue-like symptoms, with his parents believing his jumping in the canal had caused a cold, but as his conditioned worsened a doctor was called who upon being told of his immersion  in the canal water suspected  Weil's Disease, (Leptospirosis) that was confirmed at hospital.

The disease could not be controlled, it causing kidney and liver failure and bleeding, and Joseph sadly died .  It was revealed that he caught his body on the lock edge causing an open wound.

Warning

From time to time narrowboatworld has warned of the dangers of swimming in the canals and the risk of Weil's Disease, caught from excretions from rats and water voles.  Though it has been claimed that  water voles are not responsible for the disease VetRecord told:

'The acquisition of Leptospira species by a cohort of ‘clean’ captive-bred voles reintroduced to one site in the wild was then examined. By four months postrelease the maximum exposure prevalence (by either MAT or culture) was 42.9 per cent. Thirty-five per cent were actively excreting leptospires'.

There are around 50 deaths a year recorded from the disease in the UK.

  • Unimpressed 1

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3 minutes ago, Murflynn said:

is it only prevalent in still water (canal) or is it also a significant risk in a river?

Basically 'still' waters.

 

 

Infection

Infection of humans usually occurs where open wounds are immersed in relatively stagnant water contaminated with rat or cattle urine. It can be contracted from contact with any fresh or untreated water including ponds, canals, lakes and rivers, as well as flood waters that are contaminated.

  • Those most at risk of infection are open water swimmers who expose their whole body to possible infection.
  • Activities that occur in or near fresh water such as fishing, water skiing, sailing and kayaking also present a risk.
  • Activities that can cause open wounds or that take place near the water's edge where rat urine is more likely to be found increase the risk of contracting the disease.
  • People who have previously had leptospirosis develop immunity to the particular strain that they were infected with and others closely related for up to ten years. They are not immune to other strains and may become infected again if continuing in activities where it is a risk.
  • It does not usually result from swallowing water or rat bites.
  • The bacteria are unable to survive in salt water, so there is no risk of infection of Weil's disease from swimming in the sea.

 

https://www.rospa.com/Leisure-Safety/Water/Advice/Weils-Disease

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We were on the Erewash Canal at the start of the School summer break. Getting towards the northern reaches of the canal the water does improve in clarity, so much so, that you can see the canal bed. However I still wouldn’t take a voluntary dip. 
 

Passing through the last three or four locks we were held up by having to clear the full locks of children quite happily using the locks as swimming pools. I would possible have done the same at their age, but certainly not in the LL near Chorley in the late fifties-sixties!

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Another case :

 

 

Water voles and Weil's disease

Published: Friday, 06 December 2019

FOR many years I have been canvassing for warnings of the danger of Weil's disease for swimmers in the canals, writes John Trenhale.

So I was particularly pleased to see that at last someone had had the gumption to publish the fact that water voles as well as rats can pass on the disease, for it seems that the water agencies in promoting their interests in water voles and providing habitats, fail to warn people that their secretions can kill.

Family member

I had a young family member who swam in the locks of canals who was unlucky enough to catch Weil's disease, and like the teenager you report, subsequently died.

After the death I made a point of travelling to inspect the locks on canals all over the country but was unable to find any warnings posted by any of them of the dangers of swimming in the locks, only many [notices] saying it was 'better by water', that alas it certainly is not for those that catch that awful fatal disease.

I have been told that one agency does publish warnings at the beginning of summer on its web site, but I don't believe this is enough as people will not see it, but if a notice was say attached to the lock, they would, and perhaps take notice.

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But if anyone thinks a notice saying "don't swim in locks" is going to put kids off swimming in locks, they're barmy. All that would happen is that NBW would publish a post complaining about the proliferation of pointless signs. 

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My friend caught it from Canoeing on the River Wandle so not confined to canal's. His Doctor told him when my fiend saw him said he was stressed so he should "get divorced, retire or move house to reduce his mortgage" He then went to his wife's doctor who rushed him into hospital where fortunately he recovered 

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I understand that anglers are more at risk then boaters. Because they are handling their tackle and then munching their sandwiches.

  • Haha 1

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47 minutes ago, David Mack said:

What is the level of risk to boaters from handling wet ropes, especially if they have any cuts or grazes on their hands?

 

As mooring tends to take place 'near the waters edge' it would appear that the risk is 'increased'.

 

 

1 hour ago, Alan de Enfield said:

Activities that can cause open wounds or that take place near the water's edge where rat urine is more likely to be found increase the risk of contracting the disease.

 

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53 minutes ago, David Mack said:

What is the level of risk to boaters from handling wet ropes, especially if they have any cuts or grazes on their hands?

In reality very low, a quick google shows 92 cases in the UK in 2017, just wash your hands and cover cuts with a waterproof plaster.

 

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1 hour ago, Tonka said:

My friend caught it from Canoeing on the River Wandle so not confined to canal's. His Doctor told him when my fiend saw him said he was stressed so he should "get divorced, retire or move house to reduce his mortgage" He then went to his wife's doctor who rushed him into hospital where fortunately he recovered 

 

53 minutes ago, David Mack said:

What is the level of risk to boaters from handling wet ropes, especially if they have any cuts or grazes on their hands?

The risk is significant. Canoeists know about Weil's disease, as do cavers. At a caving conference some years ago someone did tests for antibodies to the bacteria and a significant proportion of the attendees had them, so had been exposed to the bug at some point. As has been said, most times you just get a mild under the weather bug for a few days, but occasionally it can turn bad, leading to organ failure and death. A caving friend was feeling a bit unwell. Next thing he knew it was three days later and he was in intensive care. If medics suspect that is what you have, then ordinary penicillin will kill off the bug in double quick time. A lot of people have had it, but never known, just putting it down to a general bug. Reported instances are a small proportion of the overall infection levels. In a very few instances it can kill you. Worth mentioning Weil's as a possibility if you have to call an ambulance for a suddenly very poorly boater.

 

I try to always wash my hands when coming back on board after handling ropes and such like. Not just rat urine, they can get dragged through dog and goose carp without you knowing. Cycling along the tow path in a city, I'll see a rat most trips. You are moving fast enough that they haven't had a chance to hide. Walking, or boating, you won't see them, but they are there.

 

Jen

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4 minutes ago, Jen-in-Wellies said:

Walking, or boating, you won't see them, but they are there.

Not to mention when you're asleep... the sneaky little blighters can get even closer then!

 

;)

 

  • Horror 1

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1 hour ago, Tonka said:

I understand that anglers are more at risk then boaters. Because they are handling their tackle and then munching their sandwiches.

Although the report above does say that it is not normally caught by swallowing water,  I.e. by mouth.

 

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1 hour ago, Tonka said:

I understand that anglers are more at risk then boaters. Because they are handling their tackle and then munching their sandwiches.

And boaters don't ever eat sandwiches (or other finger food)?

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I carry the card in my wallet warning of the disease and advising the treatment required if I am found unwell.

Workers on drains and sewers are at high risk. Consider that many small streams run into canals and many are farm drains, the probability that there are rat populations are high.

  • Greenie 1

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1 hour ago, tree monkey said:

In reality very low, a quick google shows 92 cases in the UK in 2017, just wash your hands and cover cuts with a waterproof plaster.

 

And when you consider how many people sail, canoe, paddle board, swim, fish and generally handle thing that have been in the water the percentage is even lower than my greenies.

14 minutes ago, David Mack said:

And boaters don't ever eat sandwiches (or other finger food)?

I think its via cuts not ingested. I watched 4 rats scurrying around the skips at Fradley last week while waiting for the lock

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27 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

I watched 4 rats scurrying around the skips at Fradley last week while waiting for the lock

 

Typical of some lock users - won't do anything to help until its their turn.

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A pal of mine, the husband of the fair Dunkella of the Bow boat raising fame recued him on Hickling broad. It was my fault really, we were on a traditional wooden sailing cruiser hired from the Martham yard. We were happily tacking  across the broad when her hubby went up forward and showing off lay back into the billowing jib sail. I was at the helm at the time and thought I'd give in a bit of a shock so I gave the jib sail sheet a sudden tweak and he fell through the gap into the broad, plop!. In dived the fair and broad Dunkella to save him and fished him out driping wet. He wasn't very pleased with me. Anyhow all was forgiven coz he admitted he hadn't had a wash for 3 days, difficult on those old boats, the only water tap being under the seat in the well alongside the cooker thing.  That evening we had a game of chess during which alarm bells rang. He was good at chess and I beat him twice with the five move check mate which he normally susses straight away.

    Anyway we all got home and the next thing I'd heard was that he was in an isolation hospital with a touch of meningitis, brought on by the dunking on Hickling broad, so the doctors reckoned. It was a hot summer 1974 I think it was. Cost me a fortune visiting him with bunches of grapes, whilst the fair Dunkella ignored me. :mellow:

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57 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

And when you consider how many people sail, canoe, paddle board, swim, fish and generally handle thing that have been in the water the percentage is even lower than my greenies.

The chances of getting it is actually quite high if you are involved in inland water at all. It is just that most people never realise they had it. The 92 cases that @tree monkey quotes are those that have had a test that came back positive after the disease took a turn for the worse. That is the chance of getting seriously ill, or dead. This is what the NHS (still free at the point of use, for now) has to say.

 

Have a greenie!

 

Jen

Edited by Jen-in-Wellies

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3 hours ago, Alan de Enfield said:

Another case :

 

 

Water voles and Weil's disease

Published: Friday, 06 December 2019

 

After the death I made a point of travelling to inspect the locks on canals all over the country but was unable to find any warnings posted by any of them of the dangers of swimming in the locks, only many [notices] saying it was 'better by water', that alas it certainly is not for those that catch that awful fatal disease.

I have been told that one agency does publish warnings at the beginning of summer on its web site, but I don't believe this is enough as people will not see it, but if a notice was say attached to the lock, they would, and perhaps take notice.

What ever happened to "personal responsibility?"

  • Greenie 1

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