An Olympic rower who won gold for Britain alongside Si r Steve Redgrave has been killed by the extremely rare Weil's disease. Andy Holmes, a double Olympic champion who won medals in Los Angeles and Seoul, died shortly after his 51st birthday. The chances of catching the disease, which is passed through the urine of infected animals, are incredibly small, but it can be deadly on the few instances when it occurs.
The bacteria which causes Weil's, leptospira, is one of the most commonly transmitted diseases between animals but transmission to humans is almost unheard of.
A human can only be infected by coming into contact with infected water, such as through the eyes mouth, nose or cuts to the skin.
The NHS rarely deals with more than 50 cases a year but fatality rates are high, ranging from5 to 25 per cent depending on the medical treatment available. Farmers, sewage workers and watersports enthusiasts are most at risk.
Caught early the disease can be treated with antibiotics, but if the infection spreads to key organs such as the liver or kidneys, successful treatment is much harder to achieve.
Holmes was taken ill last Monday after contracting leptospirosis, the official name for Weil's. He was taken to King's College hospital in south London but passed away on Sunday evening, just four weeks after the birth of his youngest daughter, Parker.
The rower was part of the coxed four crew that claimed gold at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. He went on to win the coxless pairs with Redgrave four years later in Seoul.
Before the win in Los Angeles, Britain had not won a rowing medal in the Olympics for 36 years. Alongside Steve Redgrave, Richard Budgett, Martin Cross and cox Adrian Ellison, the victory helped spur a renaissance in British rowing which has led to a slew of medals over the past two decades. Holmes and Redgrave won the Commonwealth coxless pairs title in Strathclyde in 1986.
Since retiring from professional rowing, Holmes moved away from the sport and set up his own removal company. But the lure of teaching Britain's next generation of rowers became too hard to resist and two years ago he returned to work as a coach.