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Published: Wednesday, 9/1/2004

Cases of gastrointestinal sickness reported statewide

PORT CLINTON - Health officials around the state have reported dozens of additional cases of the gastrointestinal illness that has sickened visitors to South Bass Island, bringing the reported tally to 1,256.

People continue to be infected, with a new case reported Sunday, Jay Carey, Ohio Department of Health spokesman, said at a news conference in the Ottawa County courthouse yesterday. Bacterial and viral organisms at fault include campylobacter, norovirus, salmonella, and giardiasis. E. coli, which has been found in some water samples, hasn't been found in samples from humans, Barbara Bradley of the state health department said.

Though a new case has arisen, the volume of calls to the state health department and Ottawa County Department of Health has lessened enough that officials will cut back the hours information lines are open to 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. People seeking information can call 1-866-905-4636. Ill folks should contact the county at 419-734-6800, Mr. Carey said.

Meanwhile, investigators still are seeking the source of the outbreak, said Mike Baker, chief of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's division of drinking and ground waters. They've have taken more than 100 samples from water systems and individual wells on the island and will continue to do so.

Recent site samples have continued to test positive for total coliform bacteria, an indicator of possible contamination by feces, or E. coli, a bacteria that normally lives in the intestines of humans or animals. Some strains of E. coli produce toxins that can cause diarrhea.

Even private homeowners have begun asking for their wells to be tested, said Nancy Osborn, county health commissioner. Apparently, they have good reason: Of the nine private wells tested last week, seven came up positive for E. coli or total coliform bacteria, she said.

Among businesses, both wells at Saunders Cottages resort tested positive for bacteria and may not be used, Mr. Baker said.

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