Almost 150 boaters develop mystery illness on Lake Minnetonka

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Big Island is one of the most popular raft-up areas on Lake Minnetonka.

Big Island is one of the most popular raft-up areas on Lake Minnetonka.

Health officials in Hennepin County, Minn., reportedly received around 140 phone calls from sick people who spent Independence Day near the popular Big Island on Lake Minnetonka. Local marine businesses are worried that their business could be impacted during Minnesota’s short summer boating season.

Paddle Trap, a local charter business, is worried about the remaining weeks of the summer. “It’s the busiest time of the year. We only have like 12 weeks or so to really crush it out,” manager Wells Brose, told the local CBS affiliate. Brose said the scare near Big Island couldn’t have happened at a worse time. He said customers are calling, wondering if they should cancel their reservations.

“They don’t want to come out at all. They’re worried, ‘Am I gonna get sick? Am I gonna get hurt? What’s going on?’ And so, just want to let people know it’s safe to be on boats,” he said.

Symptoms included stomach cramping, vomiting and diarrhea. One boater who fell ill, Austin Hilgenberg, said the city of Orono should put a barge with portable bathrooms near the island on holiday weekends.

Orono city administrator Dustin Rief told the TV station that park staff mow the lawn and maintain trails, but currently that’s the extent of the city’s work on the island. “If we are having sickness, then maybe it’s time for us to address that,” he said in a statement.

Rief said the city doesn’t control the water that surrounds the island and that he is open to discussing the idea of a barge with local communities that surround the lake and organizations such as the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District.

Hilgenberg went to the doctor for tests and results for E. coli and norovirus came back negative.


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