For more updates, stay tuned to Metro News. To learn more, call the Multnomah County information line at 503-988-4454.
Update Friday, July 18, 3:30 p.m.
Swimming and boating at Blue Lake Regional Park will remain closed July 18 through 20 as public health officials continue to look for what caused diarrhea and vomiting among visitors last weekend.
Deputy Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines said the Multnomah County Health Department’s investigation into the illnesses in visitors to the park July 11-13 is ongoing. Based on the onset and symptoms, norovirus is highly suspected.
On Friday, health officials said a study of park visitors, including those who were well and ill, has pinpointed the areas of concern. Those are the Blue Lake swimming beach and lake water, which have been closed to the public since Monday.
The analysis also shows that the park’s playground, bathrooms, drinking water, food concessions and splash pad are considered safe for people to visit, Dr. Vines said. In addition, after a high E. coli level in a July 16 water sample, no E. coli was detected in follow-up tests. E. coli and toxic algae have been ruled out as the cause of any illness.
Dr. Vines said the Blue Lake outbreak was a reminder that anyone with diarrhea, vomiting or stomach upset should avoid recreational swimming until they are well.
Update Thursday, July 17, 1:50 p.m.
As public health officials investigate what caused illness at Blue Lake Regional Park last weekend, new routine water samples taken Wednesday show a high level of E. coli in the shallow swimming area – an unusual spike that is being retested with new water samples.
Blue Lake has been closed to swimming since Monday, July 14, and to boating since Tuesday, July 15 while the Multnomah County Health Department investigates an outbreak of vomiting and diarrhea.
The timing and symptoms of the illness park patrons reported still suggest norovirus or a similar virus as the cause, said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Deputy Health Officer.
E. coli results from water samples around the time of the outbreak were low and it was ruled out as a cause. Health officials are still talking to people who were at the park July 11-13 and will update the public on their analysis Friday.
The high E. coli results reported today were taken at a time when the lake was closed and suggest a separate incidental contamination of the lake. Such incidents are the reason for routine monitoring during the summer, and swimming area closures due to high E. coli results are not uncommon.
Meanwhile swimming and boating at Blue Lake will remain closed until the Health Department determines the lake is safe. Dr. Vines reminds people that even during warmer months, it is important for people to stay home when they are ill and be vigilant about handwashing to prevent the spread of illness.
Update Wednesday, July 16, 3:30 p.m.
Swimming and boating at Blue Lake Regional Park remain closed while public health officials continue to investigate reports of illness from people who visited over the weekend. So far, interviews with park visitors support the theory that the outbreak was caused by something similar to norovirus – a highly contagious sickness, characterized by vomiting and diarrhea that last for a day or two. Additional interviews and health screening results will provide more information by the end of the week. Metro and Multnomah County are working together to determine when it’s safe to reopen the lake, with support from public health officials in Clackamas, Washington and Clark counties and the State of Oregon.
Update Tuesday, July 15, 2 p.m.
Blue Lake Regional Park namesake is closed for illness investigation; rest of park remains open
Swimming, boating and other lake activities are on hold at Blue Lake Regional Park, while Multnomah County investigates reports of illness from people who visited over the weekend.
Routine water quality testing ruled out E.coli bacteria as a cause, and no toxic algae blooms have been detected at the lake. After interviewing about two dozen people, county health officials are looking into the possibility of norovirus – an extremely contagious virus that causes symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, rash and cramps.
"It's the most common viral illness we see, and it's so easily spread," said Dr. Jennifer Vines, the county's deputy heath officer. "It certainly could happen at Blue Lake."
County health officials will continue talking to people who visited Blue Lake over the weekend, attempting to identify the cause. Anybody who feels ill is urged to contact their health care provider for treatment.
Until the county completes its investigation, the lake will remain closed for swimming, boating and all other activities. People can still enjoy the rest of the park, including picnic areas, sports fields, a disc golf course and a nature playground. A children's splash pad also remains open; its water comes from a separate chlorinated public water supply, which is monitored throughout the day.
"Health and safety are the top priorities, and we always want to be cautious in these situations," said Justin Patterson, Metro's parks and property stewardship program director. "There's still plenty to do in the park."