Horseshoe Lake in Kitsap County, Washington is closed after more than 200 people got sick after swimming in the lake over the weekend. Many complained of vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Not everyone who swam got sick, and most people have recovered.
“Horseshoe Lake park and swimming beach closed until further notice,” reads an alert on the park’s website. A sign on the park gates says the same.
Kitsap County health officials say they believe a virus is the likely source of the illnesses. Water samples collected showed low levels of the Escherichia coli (or E. coli) bacteria, and drinking water samples also were within acceptable levels.
In a statement released by the Kitsap Public Health District and Kitsap County Parks officials, officials referred to the outbreak as a “norovirus-type illness.” Norovirus is a common intestinal virus that is spread in the mucus and feces of infected individuals. There is no laboratory confirmation yet of a specific virus or bacteria at Horseshoe.
Health officials are requesting that anyone who visited the lake between July 10 and July 13 be extra diligent about washing hands. Anyone experiencing viral-like symptoms are to report their experience to Public Health District and seek medical care if the symptoms last more than 24 hours.
“We want to find out what is causing this so we can stop the source of the illness,” Keith Grellner, environmental health director for the health district said in a statement. “In order to prevent further spread, the sooner we know it, the sooner we can take specific precautions.”
People who visited Horseshoe Lake between Thursday and Sunday, and who later experienced symptoms, are asked to call the health district at 360-337-5623. People also can report symptoms online at kitsappublichealth.org/about/health-concern. php.
In most instances symptoms will improve one to two days after onset, and the illness is generally not serious. But dehydration can result, posing a greater threat to people who are already infirm.
“If it’s a norvirus-type illness, there’s no significant risk to people other than they’re going to feel awful for a couple of days. They’re not going to want to move far from the bathroom,” Grellner said. “It’s two days of feeling really, really bad.”