More than 500 people have been infected with E. coli bacteria at a Tennessee zip line attraction, the Tennessee Department of Health said.
The Tennessee Department of Health said on Tuesday that at least 548 people have fallen ill from the bacteria at the CLIMB Works Smokey Mountain Zip Line Canopy Tour in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
People became sick by drinking the water that was in the water coolers served by the tour along the course, WVLT reported.
The Tennessee Health Department told the Knoxville News Sentinel that they sent out over 2,000 surveys to figure out where and how visitors became sick. The health department said about 548 people became sick when they visited the tour from mid-June to early-July, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is a bacteria that can cause people to become sick through exposure to contaminated water or food. Symptoms usually appear three to four days after the bacteria is ingested and can cause, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue and fever.
Emily Oney, who attended the tour with her family on June 30, said her and six out of her eight family members who went to the attraction began to feel sick the following afternoon.
“The tour itself was fine. We had a group of 8 for the mountaintop tour on Saturday morning. 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. “Upon further investigation, I found a review online from Sunday where more families were claiming to be sick from the contaminated coolers of water on the course. Do not drink the water here. CLIMB Works should make this right with all the families that were affected by this.”
The investigation is ongoing, but the attraction was closed on Sunday. The health department told the Knoxville News Sentinel the facility has since reopened and “has resumed operation with ongoing consultation from local public health authorities.”
CLIMB Works Smokey Mountains responded to Oney in the comments section of her Facebook post and encouraged the group to reach out to the facility so they can “help the situation.”
“While the water tests came back within safe drinking conditions we worry something might have contaminated the water during the dates of your visit,” CLIMB Works Smokey Mountains wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. “We have added additional filtration systems to be safe but if we had any part in making your group sick we would like to do our best to make it right. Please contact us directly so we can do our best to help the situation.”
In an email to Newsweek, a spokesman for CLIMB Works Smokey Mountains said the facility does not want to provide a statement until the health department's investigation is complete but said the facility has "implemented every recommendation from the Health Department" and said they are "only using bottled water."
"We feel awful for anyone that got sick and are asking anyone affected to contact us directly so we can help make the situation right for our guests," the spokesman said in the email.
This story has been updated to include comments from the spokesman from CLIMB Works Smokey Mountains.