746 fall ill after visit to fun spot


Sickening bug suspected at Spraypark in Geneva

The number of people sickened after visiting The Spraypark water sports playground at Seneca Lake State Park has risen to 746 in an eight-county area.

The park has been closed since Monday as a precaution after health officials identified it as the possible link between a suspected bacterial infection that has caused gastrointestinal illness in people who had visited the park, said Wendy Gibson, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

The possible contamination was reported by an unidentified day care center after at least one child fell ill following a field trip to the park. The cases, by county, are as follows: Ontario, 309; Seneca, 130; Wayne, 97; Monroe, 75; Cayuga, 56; Livingston, 50; Onondaga, 24; and Tompkins, 5.

State Parks officials are working with the state Health Department and the Monroe and Ontario counties health departments to find out, if the water at the Spraypark was the source of the illness, how it became contaminated, Gibson said.

"The Spraypark will remain closed until we identify that source," Gibson said.

The state Health Department reported that five of the cases have been confirmed as cryptosporidiosis. A Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes cryptosporidiosisas "a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic parasites." The parasite lives "in the intestine and passes in the stool."

The CDC said the parasite can survive outside the body for "long periods of time" and is "very resistant to chlorine-based disinfectants."

State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello has issued an advisory in connection with the outbreak, including recommendations that people who visited the Spraypark and may have experienced gastrointestinal problems since late July contact their doctors and county health departments.

Novello also recommends action to minimize the chances of acquiring and spreading illness, including thoroughly washing hands after using the toilet, changing diapers or coming in contact with fecal material in any way. Also, swimmers should avoid swallowing water, especially in lakes, ponds or rivers.

About 187,000 people visit Seneca Lake State Park each year, Gibson said.