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SWIMMING PROHIBITED INDEFINITELY AT GIFFORD PINCHOT STATE PARK

 SWIMMING PROHIBITED INDEFINITELY AT GIFFORD PINCHOT STATE PARK
 HARRISBURG, Pa., April 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The Department of Environmental Resources (DER) today announced it has indefinitely extended a swimming ban at Gifford Pinchot State Park in York County, Pa.
 The ban will remain in effect while DER continues study lake conditions that caused last year's 203 confirmed cases of shigellosis, a gastrointestinal disease.
 DER closed the park's four swimming beaches in August after state health officials found that many of the individuals diagnosed with shigellosis had swum in the lake. The lake has remained open to fishing and boating, and those activities will continue.
 Shigellosis, which causes severe diarrhea, nausea and high body temperatures, is caused by the ingestion of as little as 10 microscopic shigella bacteria. The disease is spread through human feces.
 DER Deputy Secretary James Grace said that weekly fecal coliform and fecal strep water tests taken last summer did not show the presence of any bacteria above the level approved for swimming. But because shigellosis can be transmitted by extremely small amounts of bacteria, it can be spread easily though water that is otherwise healthy.
 The DER deputy secretary noted that health officials have confirmed that shigellosis was present in York County earlier in the year, prior to the discovery of cases involving people who swam at the state park lake.
 "A rigorous study of the entire lake watershed begun in August failed to pinpoint a source of the shigella contamination," said Grace. "That led us to believe that individuals who swam in the lake had carried the bacteria into the water, and poor water flow in the lake's swimming areas during the summer failed to flush it out."
 The study involved testing the Wellsville sewage lift station and the park's sewage lines, pit latrines and water fountains for the source of the shigella. Park food service employees also were tested by state health officials and found to be free of the bacteria.
 "While the bacteria probably now is flushed from the lake, we cannot be sure that a similar situation will not occur unless water flow conditions are improved or new testing procedures are found," Grace said.
 State water quality experts discovered that the lake had naturally reduced water circulation during the summer months, and that the condition was exacerbated by last year's drought conditions.
 "The poor water circulation in swimming areas, coupled with the drought and record numbers of swimmers, created an excellent environment for the bacteria," Grace said. "Carriers of the bacteria could easily have transmitted the disease to others through poor hygiene habits."
 More than 80,000 people used the lake's beaches last June and July, with some beaches reporting record numbers of bathers during the hottest days of July.
 DER engineers will continue to investigate water flow in the lake, particularly in the swimming areas, while officials also research the use of new water testing procedures that might enable the detection of small amounts of disease-carrying bacteria.
 /delval/
 -0- 4/13/92
 /CONTACT: Mary Ellen Bolish of the Department of Environmental Resources, 717-787-1323/ CO: Department of Environmental Resources ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:


MP -- PH023 -- 7809 04/13/92 13:27 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Apr 13, 1992
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