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DHS news release

May 31, 2005

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180
Technical contact: Mel Kohn, M.D., DHS (503) 731-4023

Drinking water found to be likely Camp Yamhill disease source

 


 

State and local public health officials have identified water contamination as the likely source of last week's disease outbreak at Camp Yamhill in Yamhill County, which sickened more than 50 people.

 

Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS), said the camp's water treatment system, which draws water from the North Yamhill River, may have been overwhelmed by surface water run-off caused by recent heavy rainfall.

 

Kohn said it appears that more than one bacterial contaminant was in the water.

 

"The laboratory has confirmed cases of both E.coli O157 and Campylobacter, both of which cause diarrhea," Kohn said. "Those who were infected suffered varying degrees of illness, but we are glad to say that most have recovered."

 

Kohn said that no food item was implicated and that the large number of infections and the two different bacteria types makes food an unlikely culprit.

 

"The camp is planning to upgrade its drinking water treatment system," Kohn said. "We are providing technical assistance to the camp to help evaluate their water system and recommend improvement options.

 

"Meanwhile, the camp is actively working to correct the situation. They're taking steps to obtain clean municipal water and will be able to reopen this weekend," Kohn said.

 

Kohn said the camp director has arranged to bring in drinking water from an approved outside source and will continue to do so until treatment improvements are identified and completed.

 

The investigation, which began last week, involved DHS and six county health departments--Clackamas, Lane, Marion, Multnomah, Polk and Yamhill.

 

Exposure to the bacteria was identified as having occurred between May 17 and 20. Public health staff interviewed more than 90 students and adults attending camp during that period.