July 2, 2011 in City

E. coli sickens Lutherhaven workers

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Map of this story's location
About Camp Lutherhaven

The camp is among the largest in the Inland Northwest. Lutheran churches founded the camp 65 years ago, and today it hosts up to 15,000 campers each year. Many church campers come from out of state and some from different countries.

Five kitchen workers at Camp Lutherhaven have been sickened by E. coli, Idaho Panhandle Health officials confirmed Friday morning.

Three more staffers are ill, but lab tests haven’t linked those illnesses to the bacterial infection.

No one has been hospitalized, and the infected workers have been excluded from the kitchen, said Bob Baker, the camp’s executive director.

The latest case was identified June 24. The bacterial infection has a two- to 10-day incubation period.

No campers have reported getting sick during the past two weeks of summer camp along the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Health and safety investigators have been to the camp and determined that its food-handling procedures were more than adequate. They suspect that the employees may have become infected in their staff living quarters.

The strain at Camp Lutherhaven is E. coli 026. It is different from the deadly E. coli strain that spread across Germany and other parts of Europe last month sickening several thousand people and killing at least 47.

Baker said the camp took the E. coli cases seriously, especially in the wake of the European outbreak and knowing that they had visitors to the camp from Germany.

He said the camp is supervising rigorous hand-washing and hand-sanitizing requirements before mealtimes and has implemented other recommendations from Panhandle Health officials.

“We want parents to know that it’s safe to send your kids to camp,” Baker said.

Baker said some of the infected staffers are feeling better “and others still feel punk.”

They will be allowed to return to work after testing comes back negative.

E. coli bacteria live in the intestines of people and animals. Symptoms can include bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and fever. Some strains are especially dangerous and can lead to organ damage and kidney failure.


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