From the I-wish-I-hadn’t-said-that files, Terry Brady, a spokesperson with Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said Monday that the lake at Cowans Gap State Park remained open, despite links to three cases of E. coli O157. “The beaches are open and actually there was a good turnout today. A link to the park has not been established."
The lake was closed Tuesday afternoon, as the number of people, primarily children, confirmed to have contracted E. coli O157:H7 rose to six, with an additional three suspect cases.
At least three of the infected have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, including a 3-year-old Mercersburg girl who has been hospitalized since Wednesday, and a 12-year-old Chambersburg boy, who is now recovering after spending his birthday in the hospital.
Spokesman Brady said in an email Tuesday night that the closing of the lake at Cowans Gap is a precautionary measure "to protect the public’s health and safety until the investigation can be completed."
He said the decision was made after interviews showed that swimming in the lake before becoming ill was a common factor between all individuals.
Over the weekend, Nikki Gordon, a friend of the three-year-old’s family and another family friend, Amanda Stauffer, came up with the idea for a Facebook group to raise support. As of Friday evening, the group had 955 members, featuring hundreds of well wishes and regular updates on the girl’s condition.
Through her Facebook group, Stauffer has heard from several other people who say their children got sick after swimming in the lake at Cowans Gap, she said. They include a 6-year-old girl, a 15-month-old boy and several children who apparently suffered "mild symptoms" but did not require hospitalization.
"All of these kids have one thing in common, and it’s Cowans Gap. The only thing we do know is that they were all there," Stauffer said.