Over 500 Report Getting Sick After Visiting Tennessee Zipline Canopy Tour

Great Smokey National Park
Alan Marler / AP Photo

The Smokey Mountains in Tennessee are a sight to behold, and ziplining through them could be a dream come true. But for some, it was the beginning of a nightmare as they ended up with horrible gastrointestinal issues, reports KNOX News. It has happened since June 15 after visiting CLIMB Works Zipline Canopy Tour in picturesque Gatlinburg, and health officials from the state have been investigating what could have caused over 500 people to report feeling ill. Multiple people have tested positive for norovirus, while one patient has tested positive for both norovirus and enteropathogenic E. coli, reports the Tennessee Department of Health.

“At this time we cannot point to one simple cause of this outbreak,” said TDH Deputy State Epidemiologist John Dunn. “Preliminary testing and environmental health assessments indicate the water system at the zipline facility may have contributed to the outbreak; however, there are likely other sources involved in the spread of the illnesses, including contaminated surfaces and person-to-person transmission.”

The zipline company has been cooperating fully with the health department’s investigation, accepting the government agency’s recommendations as they continue to try to figure out what could have caused this outbreak so they can prevent it from ever happening again.

Part of that prevention included using bottled water and adding more filtration to their water wells. The entire facility actually closed on July 8 so that they could sanitize everything.

As for how they went about learning how many were affected, according to KNOX, the health department used CLIMB Works online sales records to email 2,901 surveys asking patrons of the business if they became ill after visiting the attraction. All in all, over 800 people responded, with over 500 reporting that they did indeed feel ill after their visit. But that number could be much larger since many arrived in groups ranging in size from two to 30 in size, which of course the survey didn’t address.

Many online reviews that came into the company’s Facebook and TripAdvisor pages also mentioned getting ill, according to People. The reviewers, in discussing their experience, included their symptoms which all sounded similar. CLIMB also reported to WVLT that they were getting between 80-100 calls complaining about getting sick after their visit.

Norovirus is a gastrointestinal virus that can last one to two days. Signs that you may have it include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Enteropathogenic E. coli can last up to several days and causes diarrhea. The health department suggested that those who became sick after visiting should go see their doctor and consider having a stool test performed.