HARRISBURG, Pa., July 22, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania departments of Health and Conservation and Natural Resources today announced that the beach at Cowans Gap State Park, Fulton County, has been closed for swimming until further notice. The park remains open for camping and other activities.
The decision to close the beach, effective Wednesday, came after reports of more than two dozen cases of gastrointestinal illness suspected of being norovirus. According to current information, the cases occurred in persons who reported swimming in the lake between July 18 and July 19.
"Ensuring the health and safety of state park visitors is our main concern," said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. "While it is very unfortunate that we must close a major recreational aspect of this beautiful park at the height of the summer recreational season, we must take all precautions to ensure the lake water is safe."
The secretary noted lake water has been tested regularly twice a week since swimming began this summer. Test results noting high Escherichia coli counts resulted in the lake closing three days earlier this month.
In mid-August 2011, the lake was closed to water activities for the remainder of the season after several people were severely sickened after swimming in the lake.
The beach is being closed today as a precautionary measure to protect the public's health and safety until a thorough investigation can be completed.
"We take these cases very seriously," said Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Karen Murphy. "Protecting the health of our citizens is our top priority."
Norovirus is a contagious virus that is passed from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Symptoms are stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
DOH requests the public to help prevent the spread of norovirus and other diseases. Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea. It is preferable that small children in diapers, whether or not they have diarrhea, be kept out of the water. And as general advice, DOH recommends that swimmers and other lake users do not swallow lake water.
DOH also recommends that anyone who has visited the park and experiences diarrhea should contact their health care provider, their local health department or the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (877-724-3258).
Surrounded by Buchanan State Forest, Cowans Gap State Park draws more than 440,000 visitors annually. The lake, large campground, rustic cabins and many hiking trails are prime attractions.
MEDIA CONTACT: Terry Brady, DCNR, 717-772-9101
Amy Worden, DOH, 717-787-1783
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health; Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources