People who fell ill wrote about their experience on Facebook and Trip Advisor, which prompted the investigation

By Caitlin Keating
July 13, 2018 04:29 PM
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More than 500 people who went ziplining at a popular attraction in Tennessee became infected with E. coli, numerous outlets report.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Tennessee Department of Health’s investigation confirmed the outbreak after people reported feeling ill at the CLIMB Works Zipline Canopy Tour in Gatlinburg.

At first, around 20 people wrote that they were sick on CLIMB Works Smoky Mountains’ Facebook and Trip Advisor pages between June 22 and July 4. They also wrote about their symptoms — which included severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, itching and blurred vision.

One woman, Emily Oney, posted on Facebook about her experience and how it was a “terrible way to end our family vacation.”

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She then spoke with WVLT about the ordeal and said she experienced “vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness — terrible sickness. I was on my death bed.”

Gail Harmon, East Tennessee regional assistant director with the Tennessee Department of Health, told WVLT that nearly 2,901 people who booked zip line tours with the company received surveys. As of Tuesday, 548 people reported that they were ill out of the 808 who responded.

While it’s still unclear how they contracted E. coli, the news outlet reports that it could be from well water served out of coolers that were next to the zipline course.

A spokesperson for the health department told WVLT that the investigation is ongoing.

“At this time we cannot point to one simple cause of this outbreak,” said TDH Deputy State Epidemiologist John Dunn, DVM, PhD. “Preliminary testing and environmental health assessments indicate the water system at the zipline facility may have contributed to the outbreak; however, there are likely other sources involved in the spread of the illnesses, including contaminated surfaces and person-to-person transmission.”

According to WCPO, CLIMB Works is offering refunds to people who became sick after their visit and they are cooperating with the health investigation.