More than 200 reports of illnesses related to Big Island investigation, county officials say

Updated: July 12, 2019 10:18 PM

More illnesses have been reported by people who were at the Big Island area of Lake Minnetonka over the Fourth of July weekend.


Hennepin County Public Health said earlier in the week that officials were investigating multiple illness reports that may be associated with Big Island over the holiday weekend. 

“People want to know is it safe for me to get in the water,” said Dave Johnson, epidemiology manager, Hennepin County Public Health. “We can say that it’s as safe as it usually is.”

He said the outbreak of disease is isolated to lake-goers who were near Big Island on the Fourth of July.

More from KSTP: 

Big Island outbreak has health officials investigating stool samples

Hennepin County officials: Nearly 120 reports of illness related to Big Island investigation

As of 1 p.m. Friday, the county said it has interviewed 225 people reporting illnesses, and 172 people have exhibited symptoms of vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Officials said during a press conference Friday that the increase in reports of illnesses is not the result of disease transmission. 

The increase is due to more people reporting their sickness, said Johnson. They've received calls all week, through Friday.

“There’s likely other people out there who got sick who haven’t called in,” he said.

It’s still unknown what made everyone sick.

Officials do not believe it was E. coli, as symptoms would have been more severe.

One stool sample tested came back negative for 22 of the most common infectious diseases, according to health officials. They are still waiting for other samples to be returned.

We asked Johnson if they’ll ever know what caused the illnesses.

“We may well not and this can happen sometimes when we do an investigation like this,” he said. “It would be nice to know what the specific pathogen is, that can help us in knowing what the source might have been, but in this case that doesn’t change the message we have for people about how to keep themselves safe and healthy when swimming.”

They urge people not to swallow water, stay on shore if you don't feel well, plan for regular bathroom breaks and wash your hands frequently.

“This is the time of year people are out recreating in Minnesota’s waters and so we do see waterborne diseases,” said Trisha Robinson, supervisor of waterborne diseases unit, Minnesota Department of Health

Excelsior Commons Beach has also been closed. Robinson made it clear that the closure is not related to the sicknesses around Big Island. It's the result of routine beach testing, which happens on Mondays.

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KSTP & Callan Gray

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