Zaki water hike 465 4.
(photo credit: Yoni Cohen)
Four rivers in the Golan Heights that are popular swimming spots have been closed to swimmers indefinitely by the Israel Parks and Nature Authority because of a bacterial infection in the streams, which has sickened over 20 people and has raised suspicions of an outbreak of the dangerous disease leptospirosis.
The authority posted a news announcement on its website on Monday, saying that it is following the directions of the Ministry of Health and “therefore forbids entry of travelers to the Zavitan, Zaki, Yehudiya and Meshoshim streams due to a coli infection found in the streams.”
The announcement clarified that the appearance of bacteria in the streams can occur periodically, during times when the water level in the streams is low, and possibly comes from the feces of cows in the area.
Galatz Army Radio reported that the Ministry of Health said 25 people as of Monday afternoon had become sick and were hospitalized because of the bacteria, including 12 soldiers.
A 20-year-old man came to the Ziv Hospital in Tzfat on Thursday saying he was suffering from headaches, nausea, and other ailments, and had bathed in the streams a week before, according to Ynet.
The ailments have raised the fear that those infected may be struck by leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can cause kidney damage, breathing issues and other ailments, and can potentially be fatal.
In a news release on Sunday published in multiple languages, the Ministry of Health said that it is “reviewing a number of cases of probable leptospirosis… [which] probably originated from a water source in the Golan Heights.”
The ministry promised further updates to come, and said that “in any event, [hikers should] follow the signs on hiking trails in the Golan Heights, and it is advised not to swim in non-flowing water bodies.”
Both the Zavitan and Zakai streams are adjacent to popular hiking trails in the Golan.
The Zavitan trail in particular is known for the distinctive hexagonal-shaped rocks that overlook the stream.