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    Friday, August 27, 2004

    Blaming the Media: South Bass Island, a Lake Erie island known as the "Key West of the Midwest," and completely dependent on summer tourism, is in economic trouble because of an outbreak of diarrhea in visitors. There's no clear cause, although the intestinal bacteria, E. coli, has been found in some wells:

    Four more public wells and a handful of private wells have tested positive for E. coli bacteria, but health officials still don't know if tainted water is what sickened any of the 1,020 people who went to South Bass Island, then complained of gastrointestinal illness.

    But so far, none of the sick visitors have been diagnosed with E. coli:

    Nineteen people have submitted stool samples that tested positive for diarrhea-causing agents: Campylobacter (14), norovirus (3), salmonella (1) and Giardia (1).

    There doesn't seem to any one thing causing the problem, and only a small percentage of visitors were sick enough to require a doctor's care:

    Nancy Osborn, county health commissioner, said that 95 percent of the people who have complained of sickness were tourists; 84 percent had diarrhea; 53 percent experienced vomiting and nearly 4 percent visited a hospital emergency room or hospital. The ill range in age from 7 months to 83 years old.

    The only thing they had in common was that they visited the island. However, many people visit that island in the summer. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, usually only for a day or two. It's more likely that the reported illnesses are illnesses that would have happened whether or not they'd gone to South Bass.

    Meanwhile, the residents blame the media for their misfortune:

    This week, Mayor Bernard McCann began to offer a new twist on the classic words of Admiral Oliver Hazard Perry, whose 352-foot-tall granite monument towers over the island.

    After a key naval victory in the War of 1812, Perry declared: ``We have met the enemy and they are ours.'' In the mayor's view, he has met the current enemy and they are the media.

    ...Some tourists are angry, too.

    ``I think you people (the media) blow everything way out of proportion,'' said an agitated Renae Morse, eating lunch at Mossbachs restaurant in the heart of town. A resident of Pittsburgh, she was in the third day of her Put-in-Bay debut.

    ``This is nothing but a party town. Who doesn't get sick after a night of drinking? Every kid in the world wants to call in and get their name on the list in case there's a lawsuit. I think you're only hurting the local businesses.

    I'd go there this weekend, with the kids, if I weren't on call. Sounds like a great opportunity for nice quiet bike rides and picnics without the usual obnoxiously loud drunks. But I'm not sure I'd drink the water.


    posted by Sydney on 8/27/2004 08:27:00 AM 0 comments


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