The Ministry of Health and the St. Ann Health Department have been investigating and monitoring the Blue Hole attractions in St. Ann following reports of cases of Leptospirosis associated with visits to the locations. Following on inspections at the Blue Hole attractions, the St. Ann Health Department is reporting that not enough evidence exists to conclude that the locations in question were the source of Leptospirosis in the cases reported. There is limited information available on the publicized cases and the Ministry of Health is awaiting communication from official sources in the USA regarding any citizen who may have contracted the disease in Jamaica.
The Ministry of Health is concerned about any possible risk to the public and has therefore conducted investigations and follow-up visits to the locations. During the initial visit to the attractions, the public health inspectors reviewed the services offered, food service operations, sanitation and sewage disposal and other aspects of the operations. Breaches of public health standards were identified at some facilities and the St. Ann Health Department had issued instructions to the management of the attractions to remedy these. A follow-up visit was conducted in late July, which indicated that several of the breaches were remedied while others were still in progress.
Prior to receiving the complaints, the health department had been monitoring the water quality on a monthly basis from the mouth of the river upon its exit to the coast. Samples were also collected recently from different points in the vicinity of the Blue Hole attractions, which tested negative for the bacteria that causes the disease.
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria known as Leptospira. It is transmitted through the urine of infected animals that enter the water or soil and survive for months. It is transmitted by rodents, dogs, farm animals and horses. Animals and humans become infected through contact with water, food or soil that contains the urine of the infected animals. The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Person to person transmission is rare. The disease causes a wide range of symptoms and some persons have no symptoms at all.
Leptospirosis occurs worldwide, but is most common in temperate or tropical climates. It is an occupational hazard for many people who work outdoors or with pets and animals. The disease is also associated with swimming, wading, kayaking and rafting in contaminated lakes and rivers.
The St. Ann Health Department will continue to maintain a presence at the Blue Hole attractions and along the White River course. Additionally routine checks will be carried out at the various locations to ensure the health and safety of the public.