By Deborah Condon
A warning has been issued to the public against swimming or boating on the river Liffey in the Dublin area, following the discovery of two suspected cases of Weil's disease, a bacterial disease which can lead to liver damage and meningitis.
The warning was issued by the Eastern Regional Health Authority after two canoeists appeared to contract the disease in the suburban stretches of the Liffey.
Weil's Disease, also known as leptospirosis, can cause a wide range of symptoms, including high fever, vomiting, abdominal pains, diarrhoea and severe headaches. Some people may contract the disease and have no symptoms at all.
If left untreated, patients can go on to develop kidney or liver damage, respiratory or cardiac problems or meningitis.
The disease usually occurs in animals such as rats, however it can be transmitted to humans through, for example, contaminated urine in rivers. It is treated with antibiotics.
The ERHA's Department of Public Health is advising anybody who may have been swimming or boating on the Liffey, especially in the Leixlip/Lucan area, to contact their GP if they have, or have had, flu-like symptoms since October.
"While the definite diagnosis and the method by which the disease may have been contracted are still awaited, the advice is being issued as a general precautionary measure", a spokesperson for the ERHA said.
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