December 11, 2018

Gastrointestinal Outbreak at Climb Works in Gatlinburg, Tennessee May Have Sickened Hundreds

A gastrointestinal outbreak at Climb Works in Gatlinburg, Tennessee may have sickened many people, East Tennessee Region Health Department Assistant Director Gail Harmon told Food Poisoning Bulletin. Most of those sickened visited the zipline canopy tour facility between mid-June and early July.

Climb Works Gastrointestinal Outbreak

Public health officials sent out 2,901 online surveys to the company’s online ticket sales list, Harmon said. As of July 11, 2018, they had received 808 responses, with 548 stating they had become ill with the symptoms of gastrointestinal illness after visiting the venue.

The survey found that the common denominator among all of those ill persons was the drinking water provided by Climb Works. Testing of that water, which came from a well, was conducted at the Knoxville State Laboratory. Preliminary results indicated that E. coli was found in the well water, but that doesn’t mean these illnesses are E. coli infections.¬†Many strains of this bacteria do not cause human illness. And many different types of bacteria and viruses cause similar gastrointestinal symptoms.

That water from the Climb Works well has been sent to the state’s main lab in Nashville for further testing, to determine the strain of E. coli that was in the water. ¬†“Until we receive the lab results from our main lab, we cannot determine what organisms caused the illnesses in the 548 people responding to the survey,” Harmon said. “To date, to my knowledge, no one has been hospitalized or have developed HUS.”

She said that Climb Works is cooperating with this investigation. The venue has also implemented recommendations for cleaning that the Department of Helath has made. They have been cleaning and sanitizing all areas of the attraction, posting signs in restrooms indicating that the water there is not potable, providing bottled water to their patrons and installing a new water filtration system.

The symptoms of an E. coli illness include severe and painful abdominal cramps, and diarrhea that may be bloody. Some people may experience vomiting. Most patients will not develop a fever. If you visited Climb Works this summer and have been sick, officials recommend that you see your doctor and ask for a stool sample for a diagnosis.

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