CDC Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

Israel Reports Leptospirosis Outbreak

Travel Alert Level 1 issued by CDC for Israel regarding leptospirosis disease
Israel airline in the sky

Israel health officials have reported a leptospirosis outbreak in the Golan Heights region, which is located in northern Israel.

As of August 26, 2018, the State of Israel Ministry of Health reported 462 patients with symptoms of the disease, 42 of which have laboratory verification of leptospirosis. 

Leptospirosis is a disease spread by animal urine. It is not related to leprosy, which is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium leprae.

These leptospirosis cases have been linked to waterways of Gilabun, Majrase, Meshushim, Yarden (Jordan) Park, Yehudiya, Zakhi, and Zavitan. These sites are closed to the public.

People get infected with leptospirosis when they come in contact with body fluids of infected animals or with water, soil, or food contaminated with infected urine.

Travelers at highest risk are those exposed to contaminated fresh water through activities such as swimming, wading, kayaking, or rafting.

In response to this outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions alert, on September 7, 2018. 

There is no vaccine approved in the United States to prevent leptospirosis, but can be treated with antibiotics, which are most effective when given early during illness.

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.

Leptospirosis can be deadly and in the more severe cases can cause kidney or liver failure, meningitis, or bleeding in the lungs, says the CDC.

Travelers can take the following steps to prevent the disease:

  • Avoid contact with water or soil that may be contaminated with animal urine. Don't wade, swim in, or swallow flood waters or water from lakes, rivers, or swamps.
  • Treat water to make it safe to drink by boiling or using an appropriate chemical treatment, especially if it has been collected from a source that could be exposed to urine from animals or contaminated by floodwater runoff.
  • Cover any cuts or abrasions and wear protective clothing, especially footwear, if you must wade in floodwaters or other water that might be contaminated.
  • Talk to your health care provider about taking medicine to help prevent leptospirosis. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all your planned activities.

The CDC says If you feel sick and think you may have leptospirosis, talk to your doctor or nurse if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever. Tell them about your travel and that you think you have been exposed to contaminated water.