Attorneys representing dozens of people who contracted gastrointestinal illnesses at a Kansas wildlife and splash park last summer have new ammunition now that the Centers for Disease Control has published the results of their study.
The lawsuits center around two separate outbreaks that occurred a week apart at the Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard, near Wichita.
Three lawsuits were filed after the incident. One case has already settled. Another case, involving a minor getting sick after going to the splash park, is asking for more than $75,000.
A third case, which represents dozens of people who complained about themselves or their children getting violently ill and even hospitalized, is ongoing.
The CDC’s August 5, 2022, Morbidity and Mortality Report states that 21 people contracted shigellosis and 6 people contracted norovirus while visiting the wildlife park’s splash park.
The report identified two distinct outbreaks associated with the park. One was caused by the shigella spp. bacteria on June 11, 2021, while the other was caused by the norovirus on June 18, 2021.
A total of 63 people reported gastrointestinal illness between June 11 and June 19, but for those who visited the park for days other than June 11 or 18, these 36 people did not have clinical evidence of infection by these pathogens.
The CDC’s study is based on survey responses solicited by the wildlife park and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment though press releases and Facebook posts.
A total of 404 people who visited Tanganyika last year between May 28 and June 19 submitted responses. The CDC study provides a closer look at what happened.
Both outbreaks were attributed to getting splash pad water in the mouth at the wildlife park’s splash park.
Both of these illnesses are associated with accidentally ingesting tiny particles of feces.
Nonhuman primates are the only known animal reservoir of Shigella; however, touching or feeding lemurs (the only nonhuman primates at the wildlife park available for patron interaction) was not associated with illness.
The CDC identified several factors that contributed to the outbreaks.
• “Water stood in the collection tank (into which water drains after spraying users and before it is filtered, disinfected, and resprayed) overnight instead of being continuously recirculated, filtered, and chlorinated.”
• “The splash pad did not have an automated controller to measure and help maintain the free chlorine concentration needed to prevent pathogen transmission.”
• “In addition, no staff member had documentation of having completed standardized operator training.”
“Outbreak contributing factors included inadequate disinfection, equipment, and training,” the study states.
Amazingly, Kansas state and county health codes do not include regulations for splash pads.
The state’s adoption of the CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code could help prevent future incidents.