Virginia health officials investigate E. coli outbreak in Lake Anna

Health officials in Virginia are investigating a cluster of gastrointestinal illnesses in people who were exposed to the water in Lake Anna over the Memorial Day weekend. 

Officials say some of those who fell ill were diagnosed with E. coli infections.

The Virginia Department of Health says they have received numerous reports of GI illness, mainly in children. Some hospitalizations have also been reported. 

Officials say all potential causes of illness, including lake water and food exposures, are being investigated.

"We hope that those hospitalized continue to recover and can return home to their families soon," said Rappahannock Health District Health Director Olugbenga O. Obasanjo, MD in a statement online. "This is an ongoing investigation with the health department, and we will likely continue to learn about the situation in the coming days."

All the ill people confirmed swimming in, or being in contact with, the water in Lake Anna, officials said. However, they cannot yet confirm that the lake water is the source of the illness.

Water testing of the lake is ongoing. No swimming advisories are in place at this time.

"As we head to pools, lakes, and beaches to enjoy the warmer weather and spend time with our families, it is important to remember to take precautions to prevent illness," Dr. Obasanjo continued in the statement. "Showering before and after swimming, washing your hands before eating, and being sure not to drink the lake water are some of the ways to stay healthy this summer. It is also important not to swim if you have diarrhea. Children may need extra monitoring and reminders to follow these precautions."

Tips To Prevent Illness When Swimming & Boating In Natural Waters from VDH:

- Never drink untreated water, and don’t swim if skin has cuts or open wounds. Natural waters such as rivers, lakes, and oceans contain germs and contaminants, which can cause illness.

- Wash their hands after using the bathroom and before preparing and eating food.

- Avoid swimming near storm drains (pipes that drain polluted water from streets) along into natural waters.

- Avoid swimming if they are vomiting or have diarrhea.

- Not go in water if there is a green film on the water and keep pets out as well. This film may indicate an algal bloom and some algae produce toxins that can make people sick.

- 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 & runoff from land.

- Properly dispose of human waste by discharging boat sewage at marinas with a pump-out unit or dump station.

Anyone in the Lake Anna area on Memorial Day weekend or since, and who has experienced gastrointestinal illness, is advised to contact their local health department.