E. coli cases tied to Memorial Day visits at Lake Anna in Virginia under investigation

Health officials are investigating after nearly two dozen cases of illnesses have been reported in Virginia involving people, mainly children, who visited the same lake over Memorial Day weekend.

Some people hospitalized have been diagnosed with Escherichia coli (E. coli) infections and gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses, according to a June 7 Virginia Department of Health press release. All affected visited Lake Anna around the holiday.

Located just over 70 miles south of Washington, D.C. Lake Anna is a freshwater inland reservoir in Louisa and Spotsylvania counties, spanning about 13,000 acres.

USA TODAY has reached out to to Virginia health officials.

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What is E. coli?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Escherichia coli are bacteria found in the environment, food, and the intestines of people and animals.

Although most bacterial strains are harmless, some strains can make people sick and cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness or pneumonia, according to the CDC.

Fauquier County mother Judy Inglett reported her 15-year-old daughter began suffering GI symptoms after she visited the lake, and has had blood transfusions and at least two rounds of dialysis after being hospitalized, WRC-TV reported.

"She's going through all these things that never in a million years would I have imagined that my daughter would be dealing with," Inglett told the outlet. "There's something in the water that's making all these kids sick."

Patient evaluation, treatment ongoing

Clinical evaluation and treatment of patients is ongoing, health officials said, and potential causes of the illness, including lake water and food exposures, are being investigated.

"While all the ill people confirm swimming or other water exposures in Lake Anna, VDH does not have enough information, at this time, to confirm that exposure to the lake, or any specific portion of the lake, is the cause of the illnesses," the release continues.

Water in Lake Anna being tested

As of Thursday there were no swimming advisories at Lake Anna, but the health department said more tests on the lake water are underway this week to determine whether a public health risk may be ongoing, was being conducted.

Regardles, the health department was encouraging caution when swimming in the lake.

“We hope that those hospitalized continue to recover and can return home to their families soon,” Rappahannock Health District Health Director Olugbenga Obasanjo said in the release. “This is an ongoing investigation with the health department, and we will likely continue to learn about the situation in the coming days.”

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Tips to prevent contracting illness at lakes

To prevent illness when swimming and boating in natural waters:

  • Never drink untreated water;

  • Do not swim with cuts or open wounds;

  • Wash your hands after using the bathroom and before preparing and eating food;

  • Avoid swimming near storm drains;

  • Avoid swimming if you are ill;

  • Do not enter water if there is a green film on the water;

  • Shower after swimming;

  • Avoid swimming for three days after a heavy rain;

  • Dispose of human waste properly.

Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on X @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: E. coli hospitalizations in children tied to Lake Anna in Virginia