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Thread: France – not as safe as you think?

  1. #1
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    Default France – not as safe as you think?

    Last month a bunch of us repeated last years excellent trip to the Ardeche, paddling and camping for a few days and spending one last day on the Chassezac.

    http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...mazing-Ardeche

    It was a great trip, well worth the effort, or so I thought. We split our journey home, stopping overnight at Dijon, before reaching Eurotunnel the next day where the usual UK Border Agency chaos meant we were late getting home.

    I was tired when I unloaded the car about 8pm. Really tired. It felt a bit weird, but it had been a tiring drive and a busy few days camping and paddling. Monday morning I went to work still feeling tired, and the day after. By Wednesday evening I finally realised I was not tired. I was sick.

    I called into work on Thursday and told them I probably had a virus. I’d hopefully be in on Friday. But Friday I was no better. The weekend should see it off. Monday I was sure to be in.

    But by Monday I was worse. Severe tiredness, aching, night sweats. I went to the Doctor. He told me it probably was a virus, but he’d take some blood tests to check. Call back in a week. I’d probably be recovered by then, but let’s make sure. He signed me off until Friday.

    By Friday I was worse than ever. I called the doctor again, and told the receptionist I thought the doctor needed to sign me off again as there was no way I’d be OK for work on Monday. She got the doctor to check the blood tests and then told me I had to come down. He checked me over and could find nothing obviously wrong, but he explained my blood tests were so far from normal they were potentially life threatening. Despite no obvious cause I looked like I was about to go into Sepsis. He wanted me in hospital.

    So off we go to the Ambulatory Care ward in the local hospital where the consultant takes a look at me and is equally concerned and puzzled. It could be TB. It could be Lymes. It could be Weils. It could be Cancer (something I previously suffered many years ago). It could be something else. I had been bitten a dozen times by Ardeche mosquitoes, and had a bad cut I’d been protecting whilst there. They kept me in, fed me antibiotics, took copious amounts of blood to test, did a chest x-ray, ran CT Scans, but found nothing. After five days in hospital my blood tests showed a 30% improvement. They felt I was well enough to come home and continue my recovery there. I had to return in week to have my blood checked again. I spent the week at home sleeping and feeling crap. My blood pressure went up and down randomly leaving me feeling dizzy and tired.

    A week later I was starting to pick up a little. The hospital repeated the blood tests and found I was about 60% better. They still had no identifiable cause. Come back again in a week for another round of blood tests.

    I started to struggle in to work for afternoons. I’d been off for three weeks and it was getting so frustrating. It was pretty exhausting though.

    Then, a random conversation between my wife and an acquaintance highlighted something very surprising (to us at least). She had been to give blood, and had explained when asked that she had been to France on holiday. They asked where, as they are currently rejecting donors who have travelled to limited parts of southern France due to mosquito born viruses.

    France? What?

    A bit of googling showed some pretty startling facts.

    Tiger Mosquitoes have now been found in about half of France, adding to the indigenous Mosquito population and between them bringing a range of potential nasties.

    Dengue Fever.
    West Nile Virus.
    Chikungunya Virus.
    Zika Virus.
    Usutu Virus.

    In France. Apparently.

    https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/news....aspx?id=22798

    https://www.who.int/csr/don/25-augus...nya-france/en/

    https://news.sky.com/story/france-on...pread-11350035

    Lymes is now endemic across France. I never even gave ticks a thought whilst there. I worry about ticks in Scotland - not France. I should know better. We've picked up ticks in The Lake District and here at home in Kent.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/201...-lyme-disease/

    I showed all this to my doctor at the hospital today. He was surprised and said it looks like France is becoming tropical. Have I had any of these? They still don’t know and probably won’t. There are no easy tests and I’d have to go to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London. Chances are it might have passed out of my system now. I just have symptoms.

    The latest blood test says I’m 95% better now. I need to see my GP to ensure 100% in week or two. They still don’t know what was wrong but explained I had been dangerously ill.

    I live on the edge of a marsh. We get bitten pretty often. Once or twice I’ve felt like I had a virus after being bitten. Lasted a day or two. I don’t think anyone knows what they’re carrying half the time.

    Was it the Ardeche Mosquitoes?

    Was it something in the water infecting my cut?

    Was it something in the water supply at the bivouacs (looked like natural filtered water to me – not mains).

    Was it something else entirely?

    I guess I’ll probably never know. It feels very odd to have been dangerously ill for over four weeks and not know why. Unless it comes back I suppose.

    But I don’t think I’ll be able look at France in quite the same way again. Not for a long while.
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  2. #2
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    Pleased you seem to be on the mend at least.

    Personally, I didn’t know much about the tiger mossies but obviously had a fair idea of ticks being around, especially given our rural location with boar, deer etc.

    Anyway, take care.
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”

  3. #3
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    Blimey Matt.

    I'd vaguely heard of the fact that disease carrying mozzies were starting to find their way to Europe, but of course, didn't really consider it relevant to me...

    Glad you sound as if you're over the worst! I'm sure you'd be happier if you knew what it was though.

    Ticks are something I am very aware of, almost everywhere I go now.

    Of course, we should probably blame bre*it...

  4. #4
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    Oh no, that sounds terrible Matt. Sorry to hear about the recent illness. Scary business! It also seems that the rest of us might have dodged a bullet... especially when I cast my mind back to the number of mosquito bite I'd had... and to think Adrian fared much worse than me in the bite per square mm ratio! For what it's worth, I received most of my bites from the first night's camp on the Ardeche (Sampzon). Don't remember seeing any ticks while we were down there - I had packed my tick remover just in case.

    Anyway, I'm glad to hear you're on the mend.
    Matt

  5. #5
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    We do get West Nile Virus here but its a specific type of mozzie that carries it and there are generally forecasts in the summer months which let us know if these are on the increase. Might be worth checking out if France offers the same kind of forecasting system.

    Interesting thing with West Nile is it can present as a mild flu for a couple of days to a full on "out for a year" mess with your life illness.

    So prevention is better than cure which generally means try not to get bitten. Luckily the virus carrying mozzies haven't got into the north country where trying not to get bitten would be like trying to hold the tide back.

  6. #6
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    What a terrible experience, Matt. Pleased to hear you're on the mend and hope to hear the tests are 100%.

    Garth

  7. #7
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    Thanks for sharing your story and sorry to hear about your illness.
    Must be frustrating not knowing what is wrong, but nevertheless feeling really ill.
    Also goes to show how far we are from being able to accurately diagnose so many illnesses.

  8. #8
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    That all sounds really scary Matt, I'm glad you are recovering. I recall one year near the Dordogne when I got bitten loads one day and felt absolutely awful the next but then all the mozzies disappeared. Cleared up in 24 hours.

    Another thing which dogs can catch is Leichman's disease which is a nasty parasite, my brother-in-law's dog got that bt I could see that transferring to humans.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    Another thing which dogs can catch is Leichman's disease which is a nasty parasite, my brother-in-law's dog got that bt I could see that transferring to humans.
    I was about to mention adding Leishmaniasis to the list.

    Spread by sandfly bites. DOES affect humans.

    Did you have any mouth or skin ulcers while you were out there? Are you anaemic?
    "I'm not getting in a boat which is DESIGNED to go upside down."

  10. #10
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    Hello Matto,
    I'm a French Paddler living in Brittany (I'm not a doctor). Your symptoms could be the ones related to leptospirosis (https://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/index.html), a very dangerous disease carried by rodents like Coypu, rats or foxes, and spread by their urine. Several French paddlers are affected every year and some fatalities have been recorded. Massive doses of antibiotics are the answer provided they are given soon after the infection which usually takes from one week to ten days to appear.

    The French Canoe federation advises all paddlers to inform their GP of this possibility in case of "flu-like" symptoms appearing after a session on the water. Small cuts or abrasions might be the points of entry of the disease.

    Vaccines exist for people working in infected environments like sewage workers but they are expensive and don't protect from all the forms of the disease.
    If you have been exposed to this disease your body has created specific antibodies and a specific blood test should reveal it.

    Mosquitoes could be the culprits but I'm doubtful.

    In any case all British paddlers travelling to France should be aware of this disease especially if they paddle on slow moving rivers with a flow below normal like at this period.

    Precautions to take to avoid the disease: Clean and disinfect all cuts however small, wear shoes, take a shower after your session on the water.
    Hope this helps
    Best
    François Parigot
    Don't panic guys I've been paddling on French rivers for nearly fifty years and never caught the beast but my club president was in Hospital for two weeks in a sorry state a few years ago.
    Last edited by François53; 31st-October-2018 at 05:38 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by François53 View Post
    Hello Matto,
    I'm a French Paddler living in Brittany (I'm not a doctor). Your symptoms could be the ones related to leptospirosis (https://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/index.html), a very dangerous disease carried by rodents like Coypu, rats or foxes, and spread by their urine. Several French paddlers are affected every year and some fatalities have been recorded. Massive doses of antibiotics are the answer provided they are given soon after the infection which usually takes from one week to ten days to appear.

    The French Canoe federation advises all paddlers to inform their GP of this possibility in case of "flu-like" symptoms appearing after a session on the water. Small cuts or abrasions might be the points of entry of the disease.

    Vaccines exist for people working in infected environments like sewage workers but they are expensive and don't protect from all the forms of the disease.
    If you have been exposed to this disease your body has created specific antibodies and a specific blood test should reveal it.

    Mosquitoes could be the culprits but I'm doubtful.

    In any case all British paddlers travelling to France should be aware of this disease especially if they paddle on slow moving rivers with a flow below normal like at this period.

    Precautions to take to avoid the disease: Clean and disinfect all cuts however small, wear shoes, take a shower after your session on the water.
    Hope this helps
    Best
    François Parigot
    Don't panic guys I've been paddling on French rivers for nearly fifty years and never caught the beast but my club president was in Hospital for two weeks in a sorry state a few years ago.
    really good info, thanks. As a result, it occurs I should do what I can to ensure more people are aware so I’ve put together a client “hazards and safety” sheet covering this any other things I normally pass on and have added it to the packs we hand out to customers and also to our initial client handover verbal brief ... so it is at least known about and people have an option to react should there be an issue
    Last edited by MarkL; 31st-October-2018 at 07:50 PM.
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”

  12. #12
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    We have leptospirosis in the UK too. The BCU used to give out Weil's disease pocket warning cards to paddlers for them to show their doctor.
    "I'm not getting in a boat which is DESIGNED to go upside down."

  13. #13
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    Thats sounds rather scary. Glad you're on the mend.
    http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.co.uk/

  14. #14
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    Very sorry to hear about your illness, hopefully you'll be fully recovered soon. I had an adventure with leptospirosis earlier this year unfortunately caught in the UK and some of the symptoms sound similar.
    Whatever it was, its possible you'll never know, I think its good to highlight these issues and remind people to take simple precautions such as wash hands, boil water, use repellent etc.
    I do wonder, with the increase in global temperatures, how long it will be before the more exotic diseases gain a foothold over here.
    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

  15. #15
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    Sounds bloody awful Matt.

    I'm not a Doctor (or an engineer), but it may have been Kocenititus, a horrible affliction that causes all your symptoms and is often accompanied by severe ear ache and a pain in the neck.

    Infection mechanisms aren't well understood, but common factors that are thought to be causal are being forced onto the water too early in the morning, staying on the water until late in the evening, having to paddle past the point of exhaustion and driving around behind vans with manufacturer's badges that light up when applying the brakes.

    Treatment can be a bit rough, antibiotics, antivirals, placing the patient at the collision point of a high powered particle accelerator, amputation at the neck or paddling with enough northerners to force Typhoid Mary Lengthorn to stay in camp til lunchtime.

    Seriously though, it's good to hear you are feeling better, stay that way.
    The only thing you have to fear is Mergatroid the vengeful, man eating bear.
    (and my youtube channel)

  16. #16
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    Thanks for all the comments and support folks. Going to try and see my GP tomorrow. Leishmaniasis sounds a bit too close for comfort, so I think I'll have a chat to them about that. I do actually suspect the first few bites I got on the first night at Sampzon were Sandfly, as I got bitten within seconds of stepping out of the boat onto the beach. Mossies usually take longer to find you and land, and you can (usually) see them buzzing around, but I never saw what bit me it happened so fast. Didn't notice any ulceration (which I suppose is hopeful).

    The mossie bites I collected mostly happened at Gornier Bivouac the second night.
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  17. #17
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    Yet another good reason for paddling in the north of England!
    nature is m X-box

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by andym View Post
    Yet another good reason for paddling in the north of England!
    Would do but it’s a bit far to go for a paddle
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”

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