Eye parasite threatens bathers where Jesus walked on water

Favored by tourists and Christian pilgrims, the Sea of Galilee is now found to contain the disease-causing pest while bathers are urged to use goggles for protection

After three new cases of microsporidium, a severe inflammation of the cornea, were detected among swimmers in the Sea of Galilee, the Health Ministry said swimmers should cover their eyes with goggles when entering the water, raising concern among visiting tourists and pilgrims hoping to immerse themselves in the lake where Christians believe Jesus walked on water, calmed the storm, and made Peter and Andrew into "fishers of men".
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Ophthalmologists reported cases of corneal inflammation and scarring in patients who had recently bathed in the contaminated waters, with two confirmed diagnoses of microsporidium and another suspected case. This was not the first time such occurrences were reported; last year, 38 cases of similar corneal lesions were documented, sparking concerns about the presence of the parasite.
2 View gallery
נופשים בחוף סוסיתא בכינרת
נופשים בחוף סוסיתא בכינרת
Remember your binoculars when submerging
(Photo: Oshri Ben-Dor)
"The Ministry of Health recommends the use of goggles when bathing in the waters of the Sea of Galilee to avoid direct water contact with the eyes," a ministry statement read. They also advised anyone experiencing eye inflammation, redness, pain, or a foreign body sensation after swimming in the Sea of Galilee to consult an ophthalmologist for diagnosis and treatment.
Prof. Galia Rahav, who heads the Association for Infectious Diseases, said that microsporidium is a waterborne parasite that can cause illnesses, including eye infections. She emphasized the importance of preventive measures, particularly goggles when entering water. In pools, more targeted treatments are available, but the Sea of Galilee poses unique challenges.
2 View gallery
שקיעה בחוף סוסיתא
שקיעה בחוף סוסיתא
Sunset over the Sea of Galilee
(Photo: Local regional council)
Microsporidium - Q&A
What is the microsporidium parasite and what are its effects? Microsporidium is a type of parasite similar to fungi. It releases numerous spores that evolve into parasites. Over 1,400 species exist, with at least 15 posing a threat to humans and potentially harming various systems, notably the eyes.
What are its common symptoms? Typical symptoms encompass eye redness, pain, blurred vision, and non-cloudy eye discharge.
When should medical attention be sought? If individuals who've swam in the Sea of Galilee experience blurred vision, eye pain, redness, or related discomfort.
What constitutes the treatment? Treatment involves antibiotic drops targeting the parasite and steroids to alleviate eye inflammation.
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