Health & Medicine

E. coli outbreak closes all beaches in this gated community

Signs and caution tape signify the closure of the Community Center Pool Beach at Lake Wildwood due to bacterial contamination.
Signs and caution tape signify the closure of the Community Center Pool Beach at Lake Wildwood due to bacterial contamination.

All beaches in the Nevada County community of Lake Wildwood have now been closed after water testing revealed E. coli at three locations, according to the Nevada County Public Health Department.

County authorities closed off the gated community’s Main Beach, also known as Commodore Park, last Friday, a day after receiving reports of potential E. coli infection in people who had visited the area. Additional beaches were closed after E. coli bacteria was confirmed present Tuesday in shallow water at three of the five Lake Wildwood beaches tested: Meadow Park, Hideaway Park and Commodore Park.

All children known by the county to be infected played on the latter, the Nevada County Public Health Department said.

The beaches will remain off-limits until bacteria levels subside, and the county Public Health Department has warned all lake-goers to stay out of the water.

As of Wednesday, the county reported that one adult and nine children had grown ill in connection with the man-made lake. Six of the children have been hospitalized, two of whom were later discharged. Recovery time for an E. coli infection, which can cause symptoms ranging from cramps to often-bloody diarrhea to nausea, is typically five to 10 days, according to WebMD, an online health site.

Three of the children have developed a serious condition called hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) that can result in kidney failure. While most people who contract HUS recover, according the county’s Public Health Department, the condition can be fatal.

No updates on the children’s conditions were available Thursday, said county Public Health Coordinator Patti Carter.

County officials are still trying to determine the cause of the lake’s contamination, she said, and will continue to test water for bacteria twice a week at seven locations along the five beaches already checked. Nevada County’s Public Works Department found no leaks from nearby sewer lines.

Amy Irani, the county’s environmental health director, said the county is examining creeks flowing into the lake, feces from deer, geese or turkeys, and contamination from humans as possible sources of the bacteria.

No reopening date for the beaches has been set.

“Unfortunately, this is a natural bathing area, and unlike a swimming pool, chemicals cannot be added to remedy the E. coli bacteria,” Irani wrote over email. “Time is what is needed, and thus the closures will remain in effect until further notice.”

A public pool at Lake Wildwood remains open as it has not been linked to E. coli.

In addition to closing beaches, the county’s Environmental Health Department and the Lake Wildwood Association have posted signs cautioning about E. coli risk.

Hannah Knowles: 916-321-1141, @KnowlesHannah