Weil’s disease

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Definition

What is Weil’s disease?

Weil’s disease is a severe form of leptospirosis. This is a type of bacterial infection. It is caused by Leptospira bacteria.

You can contract it if you come into contact with the urine, blood, or tissue of animals or rodents that are infected with the bacteria. These may include:

  • Cattle
  • Pigs
  • Dogs
  • Rats

You can also contract it from contact with contaminated soil or water.

Leptospirosis typically causes mild flu-like symptoms, such as headache and chills. If the bacteria infect some specific organs, there may be a more severe reaction. These organs include:

  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Brain

If you’re diagnosed with leptospirosis, your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat it. But if you develop Weil’s disease, you may need to be admitted to a hospital for extra care.

How common is Weil’s disease?

Weil’s disease is not common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Weil’s disease?

The symptoms of Weil’s disease usually develop one to three days after milder symptoms of leptospirosis have passed. The symptoms can vary depending on which organs are infected.

Liver, kidney, and heart

If your kidneys, liver, or heart become infected by Leptospira bacteria, you may experience:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen ankles, feet, or hands
  • Painful swelling of your liver
  • Decreased urination
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Jaundice, a condition in which your skin and the white parts of your eyes become yellowish in color

Brain

If your brain becomes infected, your symptoms may include:

  • High fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Neck rigidity or pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Confused mental state
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Seizures
  • Inability to control your movements
  • Inability to speak
  • Aversion to lights

Lungs

If your lungs become infected, your symptoms may include:

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you or your loved one has any signs or symptoms listed above or you have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Weil’s disease?

Weil’s disease is caused by Leptospira bacteria. If your infection is mild, it’s known as leptospirosis. If you develop a severe infection, it’s known as Weil’s disease.

Leptospira bacteria typically infect some farm animals, dogs, and rodents.

You can become infected with the bacteria if your eyes, mouth, nose, or open cuts on your skin come into contact with:

  • Urine, blood, or tissue from an animal that carries the bacteria
  • Water that’s contaminated with the bacteria
  • Soil that’s contaminated with the bacteria

You can also contract leptospirosis if you’re bitten by an animal that is infected by it.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Weil’s disease?

Leptospirosis and Weil’s disease are found worldwide, but they’re more common in tropical regions than temperate zones. And, they most commonly affects people who work in close proximity to animals, animal tissues, or animal waste products. People who are at a higher risk of contracting leptospirosis and Weil’s disease include:

  • Farmers
  • Veterinarians
  • Freshwater fishermen
  • Butchers and others who work with dead animals
  • People who engage in water sports, like swimming, canoeing, rafting, or kayaking
  • People who bathe in fresh water lakes, rivers, or canals
  • Rodent control workers
  • Sewer workers
  • Soldiers
  • Miners

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Weil’s disease diagnosed?

To make a diagnosis, your doctor will likely start by taking your medical history. Tell your doctor if you:

  • Have recently travelled
  • Have participated in water sports
  • Have come in contact with a freshwater source
  • Have an occupation that involves working with animals or animal products

If your doctor suspects you may have leptospirosis or another bacterial infection, they may order blood tests, urine tests, or both.

Laboratory staff can test a sample of your blood or urine for Leptospira bacteria. Later, your doctor will also perform imaging scans, such as chest X-rays, and more bloodwork to check your liver and kidney function. Scans and tests can also help your doctor learn which of your organs may be infected.

How is Weil’s disease treated?

If you’re diagnosed with Weil’s disease, you may be hospitalized. In the hospital, you will likely receive antibiotics intravenously. This will help clear the underlying bacterial infection. Penicillin and doxycycline are two of the preferred antibiotics.

You may also receive additional treatments, depending on your symptoms and which organs are affected. For example, if you’re having trouble breathing, you may be connected to a ventilator. If your kidneys have been infected and damaged, you may need to undergo dialysis.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Weil’s disease?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Weil’s disease:

Scientists have developed vaccines that seem to provide some protection against leptospirosis. Vaccines for humans are only available in some countries, such as Cuba and France. However, these vaccines may only protect against certain forms of Leptospira bacteria, and they may not provide long-term immunity.

If you work with animals or animal products, you can lower your risk of infection by wearing protective gear that includes:

  • Waterproof shoes
  • Goggles
  • Gloves

You should also follow proper sanitation and rat-control measures to help prevent the spread of Leptospira bacteria. Rodents are one of the primary carriers of infection.

Avoid stagnant water and water from farm runoffs, and minimize animal contamination of food or food waste.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: March 7, 2018 | Last Modified: March 7, 2018

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