Israel Health Ministry Weighs Banning Public From Jordan River, More Golan Heights Waters, Due to Bacteria
JNS.org – As more people are hospitalized with leptospirosis, a potentially fatal bacterial disease that is transmitted via animal urine, Israeli health officials are considering making more rivers and streams in the Golan Heights off-limits to the public, possibly including the Jordan River.
Some 60 people have been hospitalized with the infection, which typically presents with flu-like symptoms, but can develop complications, including liver and kidney problems, and meningitis.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has already warned the public not to swim in the popular Zavitan, Zaki, Yehudia and Meshushim streams until further notice.
According to the deputy director general of the Health Ministry Professor Itamar Grotto in an interview with Ynet news, the Hasbani and Dan rivers, as well as the popular tourist location the Banias, may be contaminated. The Jordan River was added to the list of suspected sites after five teenagers arrived in hospital after a kayaking trip.
Grotto urged swimmers not to immerse in any bodies of water or streams that do not feature a strong current.
He said the solution to the contamination is major rainfall, which would flush the bacteria downstream—a fix that typically would not take place until the end of September or even later.
Health experts suggest that the outbreak of the disease could have been caused by wild boars living in the Golan, who have taken up residence near streams as a result of persistent drought in the last few years.
The Mei Eden company has reportedly stopped pumping water from the Salukia Spring in the Golan after contamination was found in the water, relying on other sources instead.