Strong storms may have played role in Lake Anna E. coli outbreak

Storm activity may have played a role in an E. coli outbreak that led to the hospitalization of several people who visited Lake Anna, a popular recreation spot in Virginia, over Memorial weekend.

According to Margaret Smigo, the waterborne hazards manager with the Virginia Department of Health, there was a storm at one point “that even knocked out power over that weekend.”

Public health officials recommend not swimming in any public waterways within two to three days of heavy rain.

“Rain events are helpful in terms of creating a runoff effect,” Smigo said. “That’s an opportunity for pollution to become introduced to the water.”

Still, the investigation has not turned up anything conclusive.

“We don’t have enough information to confirm that exposure to the lake or any specific portion of the lake is the result of these illnesses,” Smigo said. “All potential causes of illnesses are still being investigated.”

At least 25 people were diagnosed with E. coli infections after visiting Lake Anna.

Most of them were minors, including five children who had to be hospitalized.

“There are quite a few children who have experienced illness in this particular outbreak,” Smigo said. “That is, to me, the more alarming aspect.”

Results of water samples taken since the outbreak occurred have showed that bacteria concentrations are not at concerning levels.

According to Smigo, the health department has samples from the lake from as early as June 2, which was just a week after the Memorial Day weekend.

“I would expect we’re probably going to be winding down the sample collection efforts because what we found so far really hasn’t been helpful in finding any kind of obvious local source,” Smigo said. “The composition of water changes very quickly in a large lake like this.”

Testing continues, however, with the next update likely coming on Thursday.

“I’m not sure that we’re going to get any answers from water testing,” Smigo said. “I think that with time, interviews with those that have gotten sick will help us further find commonalities between those that were in the area at the time.”

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up