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A leptospirosis outbreak in Israel, which has sickened dozens, has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a travel notice for people traveling there.

Image/cytis via pixabay
Image/cytis via pixabay

Health officials in Israel have reported an outbreak of leptospirosis in the Golan Heights region of northern Israel. Cases have been linked to seven water sites, six of which are currently closed to the public: waterways of Gilabun (Jilbon), Majrase, Meshushim, Yarden (Jordan) Park, Yehudiya, Zakhi, and Zavitan.

In response to the outbreak, the Israeli Ministry of Health is working to manage the situation with the Israeli health care sector, the Nature and Parks Authority, the ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development and Environmental Protection, the Water Authority, and Mekorot (the national water company of Israel).

Travelers at highest risk are those exposed to contaminated fresh water (like lakes and rivers in the affected area) through activities such as swimming, wading, kayaking, or rafting.

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Leptospirosis is a disease spread by animal urine. People get infected when they come in contact with urine of infected animals or with urine-contaminated water, soil, or food.

Symptoms include fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), red eyes, stomach pain, diarrhea, and rarely, a rash. This disease can be deadly and in the more severe cases can cause kidney or liver failure, meningitis (swelling of the tissue covering the brain), or bleeding in the lungs.

CDC advises travelers to areas with risk of leptospirosis can take the following steps to prevent the disease:

  • Avoid contact with water or soil that may be contaminated with animal urine, including the seven specific bodies of water listed above.
    • Don’t wade, swim in, or drink or swallow water from lakes or rivers that may be contaminated.
  • Cover any cuts or abrasions, and wear waterproof protective clothing, especially footwear, if you must have contact with water that might be contaminated.
  • Talk to your health care provider about taking medicine to help prevent leptospirosis if you cannot avoid contact with potentially contaminated water or soil. Be sure to tell your health care provider about all your planned activities.

There is no vaccine approved in the United States to prevent leptospirosis.

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