MINNETONKA, Minn. - State health investigators have linked three cases of E. coli to swimming in the Big Island area of Lake Minnetonka.
Required medical reporting identified three cases of a strain of E. infection with the same DNA fingerprint. The illnesses all occurred in young adults who are residents of the seven-county metropolitan area.
"Swimming in Minnesota's lakes is a very fun and healthy summertime activity, but it also can be a source of illness," said Trisha Robinson, an epidemiologist specializing in waterborne diseases with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). "This is the first waterborne outbreak of the summer and illustrates why it is so important that people take steps to prevent infection
All of the victims reported swimming and boating on July 4 in the Big Island area of Lake Minnetonka, where numerous boaters are known to gather. One was hospitalized but has since recovered.
At this point the source of the E. coli in the water is unknown, but lakes can be contaminated multiple ways, including animal waste, individual septic systems or sewage spills, improper boat waste disposal or ill swimmers.
People who swim when they are ill can easily contaminate the water even if they don't have a fecal accident.
Robinson says swimmers can take an active role in protecting themselves and other swimmers by following these simple steps:
- Don't swim when you have diarrhea.
- Don't swallow lake water.
- Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often.
- Change diapers in a bathroom, not at beachside.
Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 illness typically include stomach cramps and diarrhea, often with bloody stools, but little or no fever. People typically become ill two to five days after swimming in contaminated water. Most people recover in five to 10 days.
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