Weil’s disease is a potential biological hazard for cleaners.
Leptospirosis/Weil’s Disease is a zoonotic infection: spread via direct or indirect contact with rat urine, often via contaminated water.
Exposure to mouse or rat urine can occur in the vicinity of rats or live animals e.g. via drains or contaminated river/sewer water. Infection occurs when the bacteria enter through cuts or abrasions in the skin or through the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth or eyes.
Employees should exercise good personal hygiene by either washing their hands or wearing gloves especially in instances of broken or damaged skin.
Ensure the worker has good access to hot water, soap and paper towels.
Use of hand sanitiser where handwashing facilities are not available
Ensure hands are thoroughly cleaned before eating or smoking
Employees should also check for visible evidence of the presence of rodents i.e. droppings prior to carrying out the work.
There are two types of infection: mild infection which can include flu like symptoms, sudden headaches and vomiting and severe infection which can result in jaundice, meningitis, kidney failure and even death. Antibiotic treatment should be started as soon as possible.Early symptoms of Weil’s Disease are non-specific (flu like) and may be misdiagnosed as a result.
To prevent infection it is important that:
Good basic hygiene is followed – regular hand washing, avoiding hand to eye and mouth contact, taking rest breaks including meals and drinks away from the work area.
Cuts and abrasions are washed and covered.
Appropriate protective gloves are worn if handling rats (dead or alive) or dealing with cattle. Waterproof overalls are worn when working with cattle if there is a risk of urine splash.
A rodent control programme is in place.
Sports/diving equipment and clothing is rinsed and decontaminated.
Veterinarians are consulted with regard to cattle infection.
Hepatitis B, C and D are examples of Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs) are viruses that may be carried by some people’s blood and which may cause severe disease in certain people and few or no symptoms in others.
The viruses can also be found in body fluids or materials such as blood.
Hepatitis is another potential biological hazard for cleaners.
The following precautions can help to reduce the risk of infection:
Avoid all contact with blood or body fluids where possible. Cover breaks in exposed skin by means of waterproof dressings and/or gloves.
Treat all blood or blood products as if it were infectious.
Use engineering controls e.g. needle safe systems.
Use safe work practices e.g. have documented safe practices for handling and disposing of contaminated sharps, handling specimens, handling contaminated laundry, items and surfaces etc.
Wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to avoid contamination e.g. gloves, goggles or visor, disposable clothing protection such as aprons.
Make hepatitis B vaccinations available to those at risk.
Ensure emergency procedures and post-exposure plans are in place for those who experience an exposure incident e.g. needlestick injury.
Follow good basic hygiene practices such as hand washing before and after glove use and avoid hand to mouth or eye contact.
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