Bacteria sickens more than 500 at Gatlinburg zipline attraction

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WDRB/AP) — Tennessee authorities say E. coli bacteria caused the sickness that affected more than 500 people at a zipline attraction.

Gail Harmon is the assistant director of the East Tennessee Region Health Department. Harmon tells news outlets well water samples from CLIMB Works Zip Line Canopy Tour in Gatlinburg are headed to Nashville after initial tests found E. coli bacteria and total coliforms. Using CLIMB Works’ online sales records to email 2,901 surveys to patrons, the Tennessee Department of Health learned that 548 of the 808 respondents reported illness.

The health department says the respondents visited CLIMB Works between mid-June and early July and are in multiple states. CLIMB Works has cooperated with the health department and is offering refunds to those sickened.

Officials say there was one common denominator among those who became ill: well water served out of coolers placed along the zipline course.

"I did notice signs not to drink the water," said LaRie Roe. "So, I didn't know if that was something normal everyday or something going on."

Now crews are hoping to fix the problem by adding a new filtration system. Until then, guests can drink bottled water.

The business is offering full refunds for anyone who got sick after their visit.

Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some strains can cause serious illness including diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, and pneumonia.

Click here for more information on E. coli.

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