Local officials at the Tennessee Department of Health said at least 548 people experience gastrointestinal illness after spending time at CLIMB Works Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg.
The officials have yet to confirm the official count of people who fell sick but they were able to pin down the possible cause of the gastrointestinal illness: the well water served in coolers in different stations at the venue.
Indeed, initial laboratory test revealed the well water is positive for E. coli and coliforms. The officials are now waiting for results of final testing.
Local health officials have since advised anyone who visited CLIMB Works and is experiencing symptoms link with gastrointestinal illness should seek immediate attention from their doctors.
CLIMB's Works' Review
Writing a review on the park's Facebook page, Emily Oney said she toured CLIMB's Works on June 7. A day after, she started feeling sick, as well as her two children, ages 9 and 11 years. She said five other people who came with them fell sick as well.
Others who commented on Oney's review also shared that they became sick after spending some time at the attraction. One said 10 of the 12 people in the group could not get out of the bed while several others decided to get medical attention from the emergency room.
Statement From CLIMB Works In Gatlinburg
CLIMB Works responded in the same Facebook thread and said it already contacted the Health Department to confirm whether the well water was in fact contaminated. CLIMB Works said it also considered the common bug that is widespread during summer.
Reports about stomach pain and diarrhea started coming in on June 15. Gail Harmon, the regional assistant director with the health department, said they surveyed 2,901 people who visited the zip line attraction. As of July 10, only 808 people responded and 505 of them said they went CLIMB Works with a group of two to 30 people.
CLIMB Works said it also received calls from 80 to 100 people informing them about being sick. It said they have since switched to bottled water. The management has also planned on installing water purifiers and reconstructing the wells 18 inches higher to prevent another case of contamination.
CLIMB Works said it is the first time in its seven years of operations the park was linked to an outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said E. coli bacteria normally lived in the intestines of people and animals. While some E. coli strains are harmless, there are strains that cause diarrhea.
E. coli can be transmitted when another person swallowed tiny and invisible fecal matters of humans or even animals infected with the bacteria. The bacteria can also be transmitted through contaminated food, unpasteurized milk, and water that have not been disinfected.