Another animal-to-human disease: leptospirosis

Around 50 cases of this disease have been reported recently, mostly among tourists who took dips in the country's rivers.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Banias River
Banias River
Manno Grinspan

The Health Ministry has received around 50 reports of people who have contracted or who are suspected of having contracted leptospirosis, with a significant number of them having recently visited rivers in the north of the country.

Epidemiological studies have shown that the affected rivers are the Hatzbani, Jordan, Jilabon, Banyas, Kziv, Meshushim, Zavitan, Amud, Betzet, Tavor, and Amikam. Water samples from these rivers have shown abnormalities as well as cattle excretions, necessitating measures to be taken to prevent further cases of the illness. The Health Ministry has also issued an advisory to refrain from entering the waters of northern rivers until further notice.

Leptospirosis is primarily an animal disease which humans can also contract. It is caused by the leptospira bacterium which has ten different strains, all of which cause disease, and is mostly found in rats, mice, dogs, sheep, cattle, and wild boars. It is spread via the urine of sick animals and can remain in water and in the ground for weeks and sometimes even months. If humans are exposed to infected water or ground, they too can catch the disease, but the chances of them passing it to other humans is extremely low due to the way in which it is transmitted.

In practice, it is usually transmitted in standing water or water that flows only slowly. Those most likely to contract the disease are veterinarians, those who work with farm animals, or sewage workers. However, in recent years there have been reports of people catching the disease after visiting tourist locations featuring rivers or lakes.

Most people exposed to the bacterium will not develop the illness at all; of those who do contract the illness, many will be asymptomatic and most others will only develop mild symptoms such as fever, headache, joint aches, stomach aches, diarrhea, and vomiting. In many cases the disease resembles influenza.

However, in a minority of cases, symptoms can be severe and include liver damage, kidney failure, meningitis, and respiratory failure. Symptoms usually only appear one to two weeks following exposure though in rare cases they can appear as early as three days after exposure or three weeks later.

Treatment is via antibiotics, and most people will not need to be hospitalized.