72 cases of waterborne illness linked to Zumbrota, Minnesota campground

The Minnesota Department of Health has identified at least 72 people who are part of a waterborne illness outbreak associated with the Shades of Sherwood Campground in Zumbrota.

Health officials say the first reported case of cryptosporidiosis was over a month ago and the most recent case became ill on August 3.

“In a setting like this where there are multiple water features and there are people who may be there multiple weeks or multiple times this summer, they can reintroduce the parasite into the water, so it keeps getting in there,” said Trisha Robinson, the Waterborne Diseases Supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Health.

The Shades of Sherwood Campground continues to work with MDH in order to limit risk of further contamination. They even temporarily shut down their man-made pond, despite saying there was no evidence the water body was contaminated.

“We’ve taken every possible precautionary measure that we can do to keep people safe,” said owner Mike Thoreson.

But with MDH releasing public notices two weekends in a row, Thoreson can’t help but feel like it’s a smear campaign.

“They still have the same number of confirmed cases as what they started with over a month ago but that’s not what they’re saying that in any of these reports,” said Thoreson. “It just seems to me a little misleading.”

In an email, MDH spokesperson Doug Schultz said, “If anything, these are conservative numbers, as we have identified many additional ill people who do not meet our strict case definition… as with any investigation, those with laboratory confirmation are a small proportion of the total number ill.”

Robinson said the public warnings aren’t just aimed at people visiting the campground but for all public water bodies.

“If you’re sick, keep the water healthy for everyone and stay out,” she said.

Health officials ask that anyone who is sick not swim for two weeks after symptoms have cleared.
Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease spread when people come into contact with fecal matter from an infected person or animal. The parasite is able to survive outside the human body for long periods of time and is highly resistant to chlorine.

Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis often include watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss and low-grade fever. People typically become ill about a week after exposure, but this can range from two to 14 days. Most people recover in one to two weeks, but they will continue to shed the parasite in their stools for at least two weeks after symptoms end. Approximately 10 percent to 15 percent of cases require hospitalization for their illness. Illness can be especially severe or prolonged in people with weakened immune systems.

Health officials encourage anyone who experienced cryptosporidiosis symptoms to contact their health care provider. Anyone with symptoms of cryptosporidiosis should also avoid swimming while sick and for two weeks after their symptoms go away.

Cryptosporidiosis is a common cause of waterborne illness and is the most common cause of recreational water illness outbreaks in the United States. Approximately 350 to 450 cases of cryptosporidiosis are diagnosed in Minnesota each year.