Leptospirosis death inspiring fight to create travel law

Bacteria contracted in Jamaica easy to treat, but deadly if not treated

SAN ANTONIO – It was the honeymoon of their dreams, but while swimming in the Blue Hole in Jamaica, Elizabeth McAninich says her husband Chris contracted Leptospirosis, a bacteria that can live in fresh water and is spread through animal waste.

Less than two months after getting married, Chris was dead.

“His death was definitely not in vain, and I refuse to let it be.” McAninch said. 

Since our story aired, it's reached others nationwide. Some who visited the Blue Hole and came back with the same flu-like symptoms caused by leptospirosis. Shawna Simmons’ husband was one of them.  

“I've shared your story at least 1,000 times.” Simmons said. 

Back in February, Simmons and her husband Teddy left Maryland to go to Jamaica with eight other couples. It was Teddy's 50th birthday celebration.  

“On our third day we went to the Blue Hole in Ocho Rios,” Simmons said. 

When the couples returned home, six of the men including Teddy, were sick.  

“Fever started out with 104.5 everybody went to the doctor, you have the flu, you have the flu,” Simmons said. But Flu treatment was unsuccessful. 

“My husband was having problems breathing. A few days later, they put him on some medicine, they thought it was pneumonia. His headache was so bad he couldn't lift his head off the pillow.” Simmons said. 

Simmons searched online and came across our story. She showed it to the doctors.

The doctors began treating the men for leptospirosis with the antibiotic Doxycycline.

All six recovered. Now Simmons and McAninch have teamed up to spread awareness. 

“Every week I go on Trip Advisor and I warn anyone who's been in the Blue Hole, that this is what's happened.” Simmons said.

"We're definitely going to keep going, the ultimate goal is to get the laws changed,” McAninch said. 

McAninch is hoping to create Chris' law which would include mandatory alerts for travelers going to places where there have been reports of life-threatening pathogens.

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