OSH warns fishermen about the dangers of leptospirosis
Tuesday 25 September 2001
The Occupational Safety and Health Service (OSH) is warning fishermen to be aware of the dangers of leptospirosis following the death of a fisherman who may have contracted leptospirosis in Auckland.
"The exact source of leptospirosis in this case is not conclusive, but a process of elimination points to rats which lived in rubbish near to where the mans boat was moored.
"It is likely that these rats spread the disease in the mans fishing nets and he then contracted it through cuts on his fingers" said John Forrest, Service Manager, OSH, Auckland.
"Fishermen need to look at good housekeeping in terms of washing their hands and the removal of fish scraps and waste from vessels and nets.
OSH has been working with other agencies to raise awareness of leptospirosis and prevent further cases.
Part of this work was publishing the Guidelines for the Control of Occupationally Acquired Leptospirosis earlier this year. The guidelines provide practical suggestions for management of the workplace health hazard presented by the bacteria which can cause Leptospirosis in humans.
"Leptospirosis is New Zealands most common occupationally-acquired infectious disease, and one of the most common diseases transmitted from animals to humans," said Mr Forrest.
"Leptospirosis symptoms include fever, severe and persistent headache, chills and rigors, muscular pains, eye irritation and photophobia, nausea with or without vomiting, appetite loss, sweating, and jaundice.
"Because leptospirosis is a serious illness and potentially fatal, it is a significant hazard as defined by the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. There is a responsibility on employers and other people in control of a workplace to take all practicable steps to prevent workers suffering serious harm. This document is designed to assist people who have this responsibility.
"Among the most recently confirmed cases are a butcher, some freezing workers and farm workers, a shearer and a relief milker.
"This may come as a surprise to people who know the disease as dairy farm fever. Over 100 cases of the infectious disease were reported last year, but the true number of cases is probably twice that as leptospirosis is under-diagnosed and under-reported."