Golan Heights river trails closed after bacterial disease infects bathers
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Golan Heights river trails closed after bacterial disease infects bathers

As dozens fall ill with suspected leptospirosis, which is transmitted through animal urine, parks authority prohibits bathing in Zavitan and Zaki waters

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Hikers swim at the Zavitan spring on the Glan Heights in northern Israel, April 18, 2014. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
Hikers swim at the Zavitan spring on the Glan Heights in northern Israel, April 18, 2014. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has banned bathing in two rivers in the north of the country after over a dozen swimmers fell ill with symptoms feared to be leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can be fatal.

The Zavitan and Zaki streams have both been placed off limits by the authority until further notice.

Some 25 people, including 12 Israeli soldiers, have been hospitalized after displaying symptoms of the disease, according to Army Radio.

Leptospirosis is transmitted to humans via the urine of mammals, usually from rats or mice, but also dogs, deer, cows, and sheep. While the bacteria don’t harm the host animal, in humans they can cause flu-like symptoms, including fever and chills, intense headaches, stomach pain and conjunctivitis, in milder forms. In a more severe form, it can degenerate into Weil’s disease, which causes liver damage, kidney failure, bleeding in the lungs and meningitis, and can been fatal if left without treatment.

According to a report by the Walla news site, last week 12 IDF soldiers were sent for medical checks after feeling unwell following a hike through the Zaki stream. The incident was reported to the Health Ministry.

The Health Ministry has said it is investigating the cases, adding that the source is apparently water pools in the Golan Heights.

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