WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Over 500 people from visiting states were reported sick with gastrointestinal illnesses at the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.
- This is after they drink well water contaminated with E. Coli bacteria at CLIMB Works Ziplining tours in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
- The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed the incidents occurred between mid-June to July this year.
At least 548 tourists who went ziplining at CLIMB Works this summer got sick due to E. coli infection.
Emily Oney, one of the tourists who visited the facility on June 31, related on Facebook that 6 of her companions were vomiting and very sick the next day. After reading a review online about other families who complained of getting sick after drinking the water from the site, Oney posted an advice that said, “Don’t drink the water from there.”
CLIMB Works promptly responded with an apology saying that the company feels “awful” about the incident and “worried” that the water may be contaminated with something during their time of visit.
The Tennessee Department of Health has zoomed in on E.coli contaminated water provided in coolers in the water stops along the course of the zipline as the culprit for the reported cases.
Escherichia coli bacteria, E. coli in short, normally lives in the intestines of people and guts of animals. Although they have a bad reputation as an ill-causing bacteria, most types of E. coli are harmless and even keeps our digestive tract healthy.
But certain nasty strains such as the E. coli 0157:H7 can cause an infection when ingested, and leads to severe, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and vomiting. Incubation period takes 10 days and usually occurs in 3-4 days.
According to the CDC, “People have gotten infected by swallowing lake water while swimming, touching the environment in petting zoos and other animal exhibits, and by eating food prepared by people who did not wash their hands well after using the toilet.”
Most individuals can recover from E. coli infections within a week. Treatment varies with the severity of the infection. It can be treated with antibiotics or just stay well-hydrated until it’s over. Extra care though is advised to pregnant women, children under 5 years old, older adults above 60 and individuals with weak immune systems because they have a greater risk of developing life-threatening forms of kidney failure which happens in about 5-10% in cases, according to Merck Manual.
CDC suggests bringing the water into a boil for 1 minute to kill E. Coli. There are no certified filters yet for all strains of the E. coli bacteria.