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13 cases in E. coli outbreak linked to Cowans Gap

State officials continue to test the 42-acre lake in Fulton County, Pa.

August 16, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • The lake at Cowans Gap State Park was closed to all activities effective Aug. 9. The number of confirmed cases in an E coli outbreak linked to Cowans Gap State Park is now 13, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced Tuesday. All swam in the lake at Cowans Gap State Park, although the source of the bacteria has not been found. State officials continue to test the 42-acre lake in Fulton County, Pa.
Herald-Mail file photo

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. — The number of confirmed cases in an E coli outbreak linked to Cowans Gap State Park is now 13, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced Tuesday.

In a statement, health department officials said 11 cases involve Pennsylvania residents — six from Franklin County, four from Lancaster County and one from Huntingdon County.

Two cases were confirmed in Maryland residents, officials said.

All swam in the lake at Cowans Gap State Park, although the source of the bacteria has not been found. State officials continue to test the 42-acre lake in Fulton County, Pa.

The lake was closed to all activities effective 5:30 p.m. Aug. 9 as a precaution. The park remains open for other activities.

Lake water-testing results from July 31 and Aug. 1 indicated nothing unusual, according to Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources spokesman Terry Brady.

Drinking water from fountains tested OK, Brady said. Dye testing in the sewage system did not reveal any leaks, he said.

Brady said state officials reached out to other park systems across the United States to ask about similar E. coli outbreaks. He shared with The Herald-Mail a study addressing an August 1999 outbreak of the same strain, E. coli O157, in Washington state's Battle Ground Lake.

According to the study, 37 patients were sickened and the lake remained closed for two years. The study's authors speculate the source of the contamination was from human fecal matter in the lake.

The study states the outbreak prompted changes at Battle Ground Lake, including "the provision of toilets, hand-washing facilities and stations for diaper changing in closer and more accessible areas."

Those younger than 4 were prohibited from entering the lake, pamphlets were made about healthy swimming, and doctors and laboratories were further educated about the importance of reporting diseases promptly, the study said.

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