Beef Tainted by E. Coli at Scout Camp, Officials Say


By Jonathan Mummolo and Howard Schneider

Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, August 4, 2008; 1:31 PM


Source of Article:


Health officials announced today that beef collected from a Boy Scout camp in Goshen, Va., has tested positive for E. coli bacteria, and scouting officials said they shut down the camp yesterday amid a rising number of sick campers.

Although it is not yet known whether the three Scouts who became sick after attending camp last week were in fact suffering from E. coli infection, officials with the Boy Scouts of America cancelled plans for hundreds of scouts to attend the final week of camp at Goshen Scout Reservation, which would have started yesterday.

At least 18 people who were at the camp two weeks ago have tested positive for the bacteria -- nearly all from Northern Virginia. As many as 67 people who attended the camp have exhibited symptoms, Virginia Health Department epidemiologist Christopher Novak said.

The Health Department began receiving reports of sick children July 27, when boys from about 70 troops and their adult chaperones returned home after a week at the Goshen site, near Lexington, Va. About 10 people have been hospitalized to date, though several have been treated and released, Novak said.

Officials had believed the exposure of the bacteria to be limited to about 1,700 people who were at the reservation between July 20 and 26. After the initial reports of people falling ill, Scout officials pulled ground beef, a common source of E. coli, from the camp menu. Today, they said the beef had tested positive for the bacteria.

But yesterday, the Health Department informed Scout officials of three people who attended the camp last week -- when beef was not being cooked and served -- and also were exhibiting symptoms of the bacterial infection, said Alan Lambert, scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America's National Capital Area Council, at a news conference this morning.

Symptoms of E. coli infection generally include bloody diarrhea, fever and nausea; the infection can lead to severe dehydration and kidney problems. Preventive measures include frequent hand washing and ensuring that food is thoroughly cooked. E. coli is present in fecal matter.

Health officials are investigating whether there might have been any other sources of the infection for those Scouts who were at the camp last week, Novak said, stressing that the latest three cases have not been confirmed as E. coli infections.

By noon yesterday, Scout officials decided to close the camp as a new set of troops was on the way to Goshen, Lambert said. Located about three hours from Washington, the Goshen reservation includes six different camp areas and a 500-acre lake for water sports and hosts about 6,000 Scouts from dozens of troops each summer.

"There were some disappointed kids there," Lambert said. But "the safety of our kids was the first thing and the only thing, really, I've been concerned with."

The camp will remain closed until further notice.


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