Weil’s disease is denominated as a serious form of infectious disease called leptospirosis. Weil’s disease is characterized by abnormal enlargement of liver, jaundice, hemorrhagic manifestations and multi organ failure. The infection is caused by species of leptospira bacteria. Humans primarily suffer from leptospirosis and its severe form weil’s disease after exposure to the urine of infected rats.
Rodents and dogs are the most common reservoir of infection in urban areas while cattle, pigs, goats, fox, jackal, and mongoose harbor the organism in the rural areas. Spread can also occur through contact with contaminated water and soil with the leptospira bacteria.The symptoms of leptospirosis are similar to that of flu such as fever, severe headache, muscular pain, sore throat and redness of eyes.
When the bacteria invade vital organs such as kidney, liver and heart, it can cause serious dysfunction of these organs, which is known as Weil’s disease. While leptospirosis can be treated with oral antibiotics at home, its more severe form Weil’s disease need to be treated in hospital as there is increased risk of fatality.
What Is The Cause Of Weil’s Disease?
Weil’s disease and leptospirosis are caused by leptospira bacteria.When the infection is mild, it is called leptospirosis. When the infection is severe manifesting organ failure the disease is termed as Weil’s disease. Leptospira are aerobic bacteria with high motility. They can infect rats and various other animals mentioned above. The organism exists in some animal like rats without producing any disease in them.
Leptospira are shed in the urine of rats for a prolonged period. After leaving the primary host through urine leptospira can survive in moist soil for several weeks. The bacteria enter into human through cuts and skin abrasions when they come in contact with contaminated soil and water.
Wading through the flood water is predisposing factor to this infection. Leptospirosis and Weil’s disease is also considered to be an occupational hazard among people who work in sewers, mines, and butchers working in slaughter houses.
Symptoms Of Weil’s Disease
The incubation period of leptospirosis is 7 to 12 days. This means the symptoms appear 7 to 12 days after the bacteria enters into the body. Sometimes it may vary from 2 to 20 days. At least 40 percent of leptospirosis cases are asymptomatic. Some patients may suffer from mild symptoms which may start suddenly as fever, chills, myalgia, sore throat, cough, red eyes, loss of appetite, severe headache. Only 5 to 10 percent may suffer from severe form of leptospirosis called Weil’s disease.
The symptoms of Weil’s disease usually develop 3 to 5 days after the mild symptoms of leptospirosis have subsided. These may be referred as the second phase. The disease now affects the vital organs of the body such as the liver, kidney, and the brain. Patient may have jaundice, nausea, vomiting, swollen liver, pain in abdomen, swelling of ankles, breathing difficulty, Hemorrhagic spots in the conjunctiva of eyes, red spots of skin due to peticheal hemorrhage, constant fever.
80 percent of patients suffer from acute kidney failure. Patient may have very less urine output, raised urea level in blood, and passage of protein and blood in urine. As the condition worsens, patient becomes drowsy and confused. He has behavioral changes sometimes irritable to light and sound. Death may result from extensive hemorrhage from intestinal tract, shock, and acute respiratory failure.
Treatment For Weil’s Disease
Recent history of exposure to the contaminated water like walking in flood waters, or occupations that involve animal care etc may be helpful for diagnosis. Additionally if the doctor suspects leptospirosis and Weil’s disease he will recommend blood and urine tests which will help to confirm the diagnosis.
Most cases leptospirosis are mild and can be treated at home with oral antibiotics. Rest, sufficient intake of water and food etc will help the patient to recover early.
In case of severe form of leptospirosis such as Weil’s disease patient needs to be hospitalized as the condition is life threatening. Patient is given intravenous antibiotics and other necessary measures that will help to improve vital functions. Dialysis may be required if there is severe renal insufficiency. While respiratory distress may need mechanical respiration. Blood transfusion may be required if there is excess amount of hemorrhage.