The Tennessee Department of Health is continuing to investigate an outbreak of illness among people who visited a zipline attraction in Gatlinburg. The department said multiple patients have tested positive for norovirus, while one person tested positive for both norovirus and enteropathogenic E. coli.
The department received over 500 reports of gastrointestinal illness from people who visited CLIMB Works Zipline Canopy Tour since mid-June. At this point, health officials said they cannot point to one single cause of the outbreak.
“Preliminary testing and environmental health assessments indicate the water system at the zipline facility may have contributed to the outbreak; however, there are likely other sources involved in the spread of the illnesses, including contaminated surfaces and person-to-person transmission,” said TDH Deputy State Epidemiologist John Dunn, DVM, PhD.
Dunn said water testing showed fecal contamination of the facility’s water system and E. coli. testing is still underway to look for bacterial, viral and parasitic organisms. He said while identifying norovirius in stool samples is not difficult, it is more challenging to identify it in food, water and the environment.
Norovirus causes acute gastrointestinal illness, characterized by sudden nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptom usually last one or two days. Enteropathogenic E. coli causes watery diarrhea. Symptoms can last several days.
TDH said CLIMB Works is cooperating fully with the investigation, recommendations and regulatory actions.