Cholera detected in northern Israel water - Health Ministry

The origin of the bacteria is most likely Syria, where an outbreak of cholera has been reported in recent months.

 View of the Yarmouk River which runs through Jordan, Syria and Israel.  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
View of the Yarmouk River which runs through Jordan, Syria and Israel.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A positive cholera sample was detected in a Yarmouk River water reservoir in northern Israel in recent days, Israel's Health Ministry reported on Friday morning.

The origin of the bacteria is most likely Syria, where a Cholera outbreak has been reported in recent months.

Due to the spread of the disease in Syria close to the shared border with Israel, the Health Ministry's Health Intelligence system, along with Israel's Water Authority, has been monitoring and analyzing the outbreak and the potential risk it could pose to Israel.

"Thanks to the early detection, the Health Ministry, along with the Water Authority, took a number of actions to protect the water sources that reach the citizens of Israel," read the Health Ministry's Friday morning statement. Actions taken included stopping the flow of river water from the reservoir to the Kinneret and chlorinating the water. 

In addition, environmental cholera testing capabilities have been implemented in order to ensure the regular monitoring of possible water contamination.

 Tests for detection of Cholera are pictured inside at a disease monitoring centre in rebel-held Idlib, Syria September 24, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/KHALIL ASHAWI) Tests for detection of Cholera are pictured inside at a disease monitoring centre in rebel-held Idlib, Syria September 24, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/KHALIL ASHAWI)

The Health Ministry stressed that, at this stage, no danger had been detected to public health in Israel as a result of the contaminated water, and said that this was "due to the early detection and the significant and rapid steps taken to face this threat ahead of time and due to the quality of Israel's sanitation, water, sewage and health infrastructures."

Officials are also monitoring possible contamination of water sources from Lebanon, which at this stage tested negative for the presence of the toxin. Additionally, Israel informed the Jordanian Health Ministry as well as the Palestinian Authority regarding the findings and the steps that have been taken since the bacteria was first detected.

How does cholera spread?

Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the Vibrio cholerae bacterium.

An estimated 1.3 to 4 million people around the world get cholera each year and 21,000 to 143,000 people die as a result.

The bacteria are usually found in food or water that has been contaminated by feces from a person with cholera. This means that it is most likely to spread in places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene. The bacteria can also live and spread in coastal waters.

Cholera is not likely to spread directly from person to person, and so there isn't a high risk of becoming sick when interacting with an infected person. 

What are the symptoms of Cholera?

Once a person is infected with the bacteria, it usually takes two or three days for the symptoms to appear, although the time it takes can range from just a few hours after infection and up to five days later.

While cholera infections are often mild, one in 10 people will develop severe symptoms. In these cases, the infected person will experience vomiting, watery diarrhea and leg cramps. If not treated, the rapid loss of body fluids can lead to dehydration and shock, and even death, within just a few hours.