Bacteria sickens more than 500 at Tennessee zipline center

Health officials: 548 sick after Gatlinburg zipline visit; E. coli possible

Initial tests of well water used to fill drinking containers throughout the attraction revealed E. coli bacteria, according to Gail Harmon, assistant director of the East Tennessee Region Health Department, the News Sentinel said.

During the investigation, the health department emailed surveys to people who'd been to the park asking if they'd been sick afterward, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. It did determine one common denominator though - well water served out of coolers placed along the zip line course.

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. As of Tuesday morning, 808 people had responded with 548 of those reporting illness. Those samples are now being sent to Nashville for further testing, and officials plan to continue testing like environmental sampling to support the investigation.

Those sick are reporting symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Anyone who has visited CLIMB Works since June 15 and is now experiencing gastrointestinal illness should contact their health care provider for testing.

The Health Department is awaiting test results of the facility's well water, which Harmon said the department believes may be the culprit.

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Writing a review on the park's Facebook page, Emily Oney said she toured CLIMB's Works on June 7. "By Sunday afternoon, 6/8 (including a 9 and 11-year-old) of us were throwing up and terribly sick and could not figure out why", Oney wrote in a review on Facebook on July 3.

"But that doesn't mean they were all ill", she said. "I was on my death bed".

Oney says her entire family came down with the illness. They visited the attraction from mid-June to early July. One said 10 of the 12 people in the group could not get out of the bed while several others chose to get medical attention from the emergency room.

CLIMB Works is using bottled water, has sanitized the facility and posted signs warning visitors not to drink water in the bathrooms, WBIR reported.

"CLIMB Works Zipline Canopy Tour has fully cooperated with public health officials and has taken appropriate steps to remediate immediate health concerns", the Health Department said. "CLIMB Works should make this right with all the families that were affected by this".

The company said it wants to "make it right" for anyone who became sick and is offering full refunds.


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