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

E. coli Bacteria

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.

Almost 808 people have responded to the survey, 548 of whom reported illness.

The officials have yet to confirm the official count of people who fell sick but they were able to pin down the possible cause of the gastrointestinal illness: the well water served in coolers in different stations at the venue.

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.

Health officials confirmed the bacteria in well water at CLIMB Works Zipline Canopy Tour in Gatlinburg, NBC-TV affiliate WRCB in Chattanooga reported. Symptoms usually appear three to four days after the bacteria is ingested and can cause, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue and fever.

According to a recent review on CLIMB Works' Facebook page, Emily Oney said she went on a tour Saturday, June 7, and by the next afternoon she was sick, along with two children ages 9 and 11 years old and five others.

In the Facebook reviews for CLIMB Works Smoky Mountains, several customers said that they had gotten sick after visiting the park.

"Vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness - awful sickness", Oney told WVLT-TV. "I was on my death bed".

CLIMB Works responded in the same Facebook thread and said it already contacted the Health Department to confirm whether the well water was in fact contaminated.

Oney says her entire family came down with the illness.

"It was taking us out one by one", she said.

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".

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

Management is working to fix the drinking water by installing a new filtration system. CLIMB Works said it also considered the common bug that is widespread during summer.

"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.

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

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