A GRANDFATHER living in an area known for problems with rats nearly died from a rare illness linked to the pests’ urine.

Paul Eckersley from Mill Hill went into the intensive care unit at Royal Blackburn Hospital at the end of September after being admitted with sepsis symptoms.

His condition deteriorated and doctors sent blood samples to a microbiotics lab in Manchester University as his organs started to fail.

Tests revealed he had leptospirosis – a condition carried by animals, most commonly in rats. It can be caught by humans through contact with rat urine.

Council bosses said in August that they would investigate an infestation of rats in Mill Hill after landlord Martin Kerry raised the issue.

Pest controller Ian Smith said Mill Hill was one of the worst affected areas of the borough and that he was called out there on a weekly basis.

The 61-year-old grandad-of-three is now recovering at home – but Mr Eckersley and his wife Elizabeth are now warning people of the risk caused by rats.

Mrs Eckersley, of Stephen Street, Mill Hill, said: “Paul goes walking with our dog around where we live.

“We have had tests done on our dog and he is fine.

“We read about the landlord who was concerned about rat infestations in the area.

“I just think that he has been out in the area and he has either touched the grass or something where the rat has sprayed and it has gone to his eye or mouth and that is how he got it.

“We have not had any rats in our house.”

Mrs Eckersley, 59, believes her husband, who works for the National Autistic Society as a carer, was lucky to have survived the incident.

She said: “It was so worrying as they tried to treat him but his organs were shutting down and he nearly died.

“I went to see his doctor after he was released from hospital and he could not believe Paul was standing in front of him considering how he was.

“He is not doing so good at the minute as his kidney tests have dropped again.

“He is a grafter and this has really knocked him off and it is not my Paul at the moment.

“We are telling the story to raise awareness about it.

“There are two schools nearby, St Peter’s and St Aidan’s, and we are worried if a child got what Paul had they would not stand a chance.”

Mrs Eckersley says she would urge people to wash their hands if they have been out to prevent the chances of getting the infection.

She had been in touch with local councillors to talk about their case – including public health boss Cllr Damian Talbot who also represents the Mill Hill area.

He said: “I share Mr and Mrs Eckersley’s concerns about rat infestations.

“It is important that residents report such infestations to the council so that appropriate action can be taken.

“If pest control know of the source of an infestation they can tackle it.

“I appreciate that delays can be frustrating but as pest control is a free service the high demand from residents means that the department is under significant pressure."