Golan Trails Closed After a Dozen People Infected With Leptospirosis

View of the Kinneret as seen from Mitzpeh Ofir in the Golan Heights. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

At the height of the summer tourist season, numerous trails in the Upper Galilee and Golan have been closed in order to prevent access to water sources, after at least a dozen people were hospitalized after contracting Leptospirosis, a disease generally spread by rodents and animals.

Common to all the victims was their having bathed in fresh-water springs that were apparently infested with the Leptospirosis bacteria.

Left untreated, Leptospirosis can lead to symptoms including headaches, muscle pains and fever. More severe cases could include bleeding from the lungs or meningitis, or even severe pulmonary hemorrhage syndrome. If the infection causes the person to turn yellow, have kidney failure and bleeding, it is then known as Weil’s Disease. It is generally treatable by penicillin or other antibiotics. The sooner treatment is administered the less likely that severe symptoms will develop, say doctors.

In response to the incidents, the Upper Galilee Regional Council said that the water flowing in streams and springs in the north did not show any evidence of infestation when they were inspected. The Health Ministry said that its inspections indicated that the infections had apparently originated in a spring in the Golan, and possibly one that is off the authorized trails hikers are supposed to use. The Ministry emphasized the importance of following instructions on signs and markers both for direction and for which bodies of water are fit for swimming.