Photo Credit: M Boesch / Wikimedia
Meshushim Pool, Golan Heights

Three streams in the Golan Heights have been found to be dangerously polluted with high levels of toxic bacteria, the Health Minister warned Thursday.

The public is barred from entering the Zaki, Yehudiya, Meshushim, Zavitan, Jilabun, and Daliyot (at the Majrassa Nature Reserve) streams as well as the Jordan River (only in the Jordan Park area), the ministry said.

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The announcement was made after large amounts of fecal material containing high levels of E. coli bacteria were found in water samples tested by the ministry. Thus far, 32 Israelis have become ill with leptospirosis after having gone swimming in the streams.

Professor Eli Somech, Pediatric Department Chairman at Mayaanei HaYeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak told reporters on Thursday that a 17-year-old boy was admitted with meningitis caused by leptospirosis after swimming in one of the polluted streams in the Golan Heights. “There are currently seven children and teens ages 11 to 17 hospitalized… after they visited the sites mentioned in the Health Ministry’s announcement,” he said.

Symptoms can include fever, flu-like symptoms and sometimes corneal infections, mild in some cases but severe in others, and occasionally leading to kidney or liver failure.

The areas in question are closed until further notice. Anyone who has spent time in the water in any of those areas within the past month, and begins to feel unwell, is asked to immediately contact your family physician.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.