Broome County Health Department Concerned About Seneca Lake State Park Gastrointestinal Outbreak

Public Health Director asks public to take precautions to prevent spread of gastrointestinal illness

     BINGHAMTON, NY - Broome County Public Health Director Claudia Edwards today issued a HEALTH ALERT about the gastrointestinal illness outbreak which has been linked to the spray park attraction at Seneca Lake State Park. One of the specific germs that are the cause of the illness is cryptosporidium. The spray park has been closed since August 16; however, the number of reported illnesses possibly linked to the park now stands at 3,869 cases over 36 counties. Broome County has not yet had a reported case.

The cryptosporidium germ is passed by oral-fecal contact. Common ways of transmitting this type of germ are: 1) exposure to a water source with elevated amounts of the germ, 2) exposure to food that was prepared by an infected person who did not wash his/her hands after using the bathroom, or 3) oral-anal sexual contact with a person who has the germ. It may take 7-12 days for an infected person to develop symptoms. The germ can be present in an infected person-s stool and infect others for several weeks.

The most common symptoms reported are diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, headache and loss of appetite and/or fever. There have been 612 laboratory confirmed cases of cryptosporidium reported to the New York State Department of Health to date along with other related illnesses. No deaths have yet been reported.

Infection with cryptosporidium may cause severe long lasting illness in people with compromised immune systems. The following precautions should be taken by the public to prevent further spread of illness from this outbreak. These precautions also apply to the general public, particularly in light of the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

Ms. Edwards stresses precautionary measures be taken by symptomatic people who have either visited or come in contact with someone who has visited the spray park to keep the illness from spreading further.

General Public:

  • To help prevent the spread of illness, individuals who are experiencing gastrointestinal illness should contact their physician, not swim while they are sick and for two weeks after symptoms subside.
  • People should take action to minimize the chances of acquiring and spreading gastrointestinal illnesses, including thoroughly washing hands after using the toilet, changing diapers or coming in contact with fecal material in any way. Also, swimmers should avoid swallowing water wherever they are swimming, but especially in lakes, ponds or rivers.
  • Health care staff and food workers who are experiencing gastrointestinal illness should notify their employer. They should not have patient contact or work in food service until they have recovered.

Persons who visited the Seneca Lake State Park or family members and/or close contacts of ill individuals who visited the park since late July and are experiencing gastrointestinal illness should contact their medical provider and the Broome County Health Department at 607.778.2839.