More than 500 sick, E. coli found at TN zipline attraction - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

More than 500 sick, E. coli found at TN zipline attraction

E. Coli bacteria has been discovered at a zip line attraction in Gatlinburg, TN, after more than 500 visitors became ill. (Source: CDC/ Graham Heid/File) E. Coli bacteria has been discovered at a zip line attraction in Gatlinburg, TN, after more than 500 visitors became ill. (Source: CDC/ Graham Heid/File)

GATLINBURG, TN (RNN) –  E. coli was found in water at a zipline attraction after nearly 550 visitors to the attraction reported illness, and authorities think the estimate may be low.

Initials tests confirmed the presence of E. coli and other bacteria in a well water sample at Climb Works Zip Line Canopy Tour, health officials told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

People who became ill drank water served out of coolers along the course, WVLT reported. 

The Tennessee Department of Health sent more than 2,000 surveys to those who reserved tours online, to determine if they became sick after visiting.

Of the 808 who responded, 548 indicted they had become ill. People who became ill had visited the attraction between mid-June and early July. 

The company also said 80 to 100 people called them to say they became sick with gastrointestinal illnesses after visiting the attraction, WVLT reported. 

The health department investigation began after July 4. The facility closed temporarily to sanitize everything and added more filtration to water wells.

Water samples were on their way to a lab in Nashville for additional tests, said Gail Harmon, assistant director of the East Tennessee Region Health Department.

In a review on the Climb Works Facebook page, Emily Oney said her Smoky Mountains family vacation last month was wrecked by illnesses,

She, her two children and five others suffered from vomiting and diarrhea. 

"Do not drink the water here," she said. "Climb Works should make this right with all the families that were affected by this. Terrible way to end our family vacation."

Other people commented that they had recently visited the attraction and were sick, some saying they were bedridden: “12 of us did the mountaintop on the fourth of July. 10/12 of us are bedridden. So, they still haven't figured out the problem. Should be a fun drive back to Minnesota tonight...”

Climb Works responded that they "feel awful if we had any part in anyone getting sick" and wanted to speak to people directly who may have gotten sick at the facility.

Health officials said those who are experiencing gastrointestinal issues after visiting the zip line facility should contact their physician.

E. coli is found in the environment, food and intestines of people and animals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Some strains of the bacteria can make people sick with symptoms such as diarrhea, urinary tract infections and pneumonia.. 

To prevent E. coli illnesses, practice proper hygiene, including hand-washing, hygienic food preparation techniques. Also, avoid unpasteurized dairy products and don't swallow water from streams and pools, the CDC said.

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