The Kelvin – Safety Advice Re Rats Piss

I have heard about the Kelvin and its dodgy water for a while – mostly idle talk from passer-by’s and dark talk about rats piss from anglers. Well I was browsing around and came across this chaps site who likes to…..get this…..go near the water without a rod in hand and take a boat out on the river. Yes, I found it all very odd as well – however it seems these “boat people” have the same ideas and problems as us anglers:

…this has been quite a good paddling season in Scotland so far, there has been some really wet weekends, although typically the rain pelts down on a Sunday night and so the rivers are swollen during the week when I’m at uni, and everyone else is at work. But if you try hard enough you can often find like minded people that have skipped lectures or called in sick.

Anyway, if you read on you find out the chaps pal came down with an infection called Leptospirosis after paddling with his boat in the Kelvin. The infection is commonly transmitted to humans by allowing fresh water that has been contaminated by animal urine to come in contact with unhealed breaks in the skin, eyes or with the mucous membranes. Leptospirosis is transmitted by the urine of an infected animal, and is contagious as long as it is still moist. Although rats, mice and voles are  hosts, a wide range of other mammals including dogs, deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, cows and sheep are possible transmitters.In most cases the infection causes a flu-like illness and severe headaches. The severe form of the disease (Weil’s disease) causes jaundice and liver damage and carries a reported death rate anywhere between 4-40% which would bring the annual membership of the KAA down to around 200 I would imagine. However only about 10-15% of affected people suffer this more dangerous form. Leptospirosis starts about 10 days (it can vary between 7-12 days) after infection with the bacteria, and may be so mild as to be unsuspected. In more severe cases it starts suddenly with:

  • headache
  • fever
  • chills
  • severe muscle aches and tenderness
  • redness of the eyes
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting
  • sometimes a skin rash


Well it could be argued the symptoms are every similar to ones you might get when the old ball n’ chain starts talking about the kitchen shelves or even painting the back bedroom. However considering the amount of rats I have seen while fishing on the Kelvin (along with the other wildlife) I think taking the following precautions would be prudent:

  • Do not drink the water
  • If you have any open wounds (cuts in your hand) make sure they are covered by a plaster – might be worthwhile carrying some plasters with you.
  • Best not to splash your face with water on a hot day I would imagine.
  • If you cut your hand while fishing might be best to head home and thoroughly disinfect it.
  • If you notice any symptoms get yourself along to the GP as soon as possible.

I am reminded of one occasion when I tripped over a submerged bike while wading and cut my hand on a piece of metal. A rather nasty gash it was too. I telephoned the GP who insisted there was no cause for alarm as the recent findings with tetanus showed that as long as you had had a booster in the last few years you do not need another one.

“And where abouts were you fishing?” the Doc asked all friendly like just before I hung up.

“The Kelvin” I answered.

“Hmmm better get you down here to see the Nurse just in case” was the quick reply.

Happy Urban Fishing…..




  1. James · April 3, 2008

    When I was a student, a guy in my class came down with leptospirosis apparently contracted from canoeing in the Kelvin at Kelvinbridge. He recovered fine.

    Tetanus is a risk for any place, rivers included. Clostridium tetani, the bacterium that causes it, is found in all soil. It only causes tetanus in anaerobic conditions, so if you have a deep puncture wound with low oxygen tension (particularly if it’s already infected with something else), tetanus is possible. Deep fish hook injuries are something to be careful of in this regard…

  2. mike · April 3, 2008

    I’ve wondered about this for a while, particularly on the Kelvin.. What with the spreading of ticks and their bugs in the highlands, and rat-piss-death on the Kelvin, where are we left to fish without fear..??

  3. Jim · April 3, 2008

    Hey Mike.. There’s always that indoor place….. Nah!! .. better taking our chances with the Rat piss. Hahahaha

    Given the wide range of animals listed as hosts it would seem nowhere wild is safe. Is fishing now an extreme sport???

  4. David Blain · April 3, 2008

    Surprised you can get Weil’s disease in running water – possible but very unlikely. Its much more common in stillwater. It does worry me because I don’t always catch & release, I quite often catch & eat. Don’t know about you.

  5. James · April 3, 2008

    You can catch weil’s disease from running water – though the dilution factor may make it more less likely than from standing water. It depends on how much of the bacterium is present before and after dilution and whether or not thats’ enough to constitute an infective dose. By that I mean a dose big enough to get through the body’s various defences and set up an infection.

    Catch and eat would not present a problem, unless you are eating Kelvin sushi. Leptospirae are killed by cooking.

  6. thebigandyt · April 3, 2008

    Thats some scary stuff, i never realised i was dicing with death every time i fish. Cheers for the advice.

  7. Paul · April 3, 2008

    Alright Alistair got my permit today for the Kelvin going there tomorrow (Monday – Day off ) regardless of the weather (I`m Hardcore me) got me exposed cuts and wounds plastered(waterproof obviously) after reading this thread now where you come in where to first fish the Kelvin with regards to safety (will be wading) don`t want too strong an undercurrent 🙂 where would you recommend not looking for any of your special places however would be nice if you set me up with a place which is proven for giving up a few fish.
    cheers Alistair your more than welcome to skip work and join me just name the time and place lol.
    p.s any1 else who knows good beginner stretches please advise

    Thankx again

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