Home No cause found for E. Coli outbreak at Lake Anna; five children hospitalized

No cause found for E. Coli outbreak at Lake Anna; five children hospitalized

Lake Anna Virginia
(© suraju – stock.adobe.com)

Five children required hospitalization in the recent E. Coli outbreak at Lake Anna over Memorial Day weekend.

In total, there have been 25 confirmed cases of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, or STEC, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Severe STEC infections can progress to hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, which can be serious.

To date, five HUS cases have been reported in children.

After testing and analysis, no single cause of the outbreak has been identified, and officials are conceding they may not ever be able to identify the source.

There is no indication that contaminated food was the cause of the outbreak.

Environmental pollution from heavy rains, livestock, failing septic systems, boating discharge and swimmers are potential sources of illness when swimming in natural waters.

VDH worked with the Department of Environmental Quality in the collection of water samples at six priority locations in Lake Anna on June 11.

Water column samples were analyzed for bacteria, including E. coli, by the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services, the state laboratory.

Results for samples collected June 11 indicate all fecal bacteria concentrations were well below a public health level of concern.

Additional testing is scheduled for June 17.

Lake Anna is the second largest lake in the state with 200 miles of shoreline. The majority of Lake Anna is in Louisa and Spotsylvania counties with a small portion of the lake situated in Orange County.

If you were in the Lake Anna area on Memorial Day weekend (May 24–27, 2024) or since and you experienced gastrointestinal illness (such as stomach cramps and diarrhea), contact your local health department and seek medical care if you are still experiencing symptoms.

By the numbers

  • To date, 25 STEC probable and confirmed cases have been reported to VDH
  • 21 cases were reported in Virginia residents from the Central, Northern and Northwest regions of the state
  • Four cases were reported in residents of other states
  • Most cases (76 percent) have occurred in children younger than 18 years of age

Tips to prevent illness in natural waters

  • Never drink untreated water
  • Don’t swim if skin has cuts or open wounds
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom
  • Wash hands before preparing and eating food
  • Avoid swimming near storm drains (pipes that drain polluted water from streets)
  • Avoid swimming if you are vomiting or have diarrhea
  • Avoid going in water if there is a green film on the water and keep pets out as well
  • Shower or bathe after swimming to wash off possible germs and contaminants
  • Avoid swimming for three days after a heavy rain. Germs can come from overflowing sewage, polluted storm water and runoff from land.
  • Properly dispose of human waste by discharging boat sewage at marinas with a pump-out unit or dump station
  • If your body’s ability to fight germs is already affected by other health problems or medicines, check with your healthcare provider before swimming in oceans, lakes, rivers and other natural bodies of water.

Related story

Glut of gastrointestinal illnesses in people who visited Lake Anna under investigation


Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.

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