Statements released dispel meningitis rumors spread on Facebook - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Officials, Callaway Gardens release statements, dispels meningitis rumors spread on Facebook

A screenshot of the original post sent to us via Facebook brought on several other posts and questions to WTVM's Facebook page and calls to the newsroom on Tuesday. (Source: Viewer Submission) A screenshot of the original post sent to us via Facebook brought on several other posts and questions to WTVM's Facebook page and calls to the newsroom on Tuesday. (Source: Viewer Submission)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – The last 48 hours on social media in the Chattahoochee Valley have been filled with a post on Facebook warning of meningitis from the Callaway Beach, a popular regional destination.

A post from Facebook, that was garnered a number of shares and called to us on Tuesday, said the following:

ATTENTION! EVERYONE WHO GOES TO THE BEACH AT CALLAWAY I got this txt from a friend who got this info from an ER Dr. CDC is involved. There is a very serious meningitis outbreak from the lake at the callaway gardens. Pass this info to everybody that you know that has kid that go up there. This was found out at the hospital yesterday. I tagged all of my local friends. Please share.

There have been no reports of meningitis in our area in the last week, according to hospitals contacted, and the West Central Health District issued a statement, saying:  

On Tuesday, July 14th, the West Central Health District was made aware of postings on Facebook about concerns of meningitis related to a lake at Callaway Gardens. Additionally, our office received several phone inquiries about the subject as well.

At this time, the West Central Health District, is currently working with the Georgia Department of Public Health, Acute Disease Epidemiology Section to respond to the recent inquiries about meningitis related to a lake at Callaway Gardens.

RESULTS

We have investigated these concerns and have found that to date; THERE ARE NO REPORTED CASES OF MENINGITIS resulting from exposure to lakes or beaches at Callaway Gardens. Although recent cases of meningitis have been reported from residents of that part of the state, they have not been caused by the same type of virus or bacteria, have not shared any known common exposures, and we are not seeing an increase in reports above what would be expected.

We've also reached out the Centers for Disease Control, who directed us to our state health department, but there are no reports of meningitis on the CDC's page listing all known outbreaks.

When reached for comment, Rachel Crumbley, director of marketing and public relations for Callaway Gardens issued this statement:

Callaway Gardens takes all guest safety matters very seriously. If Callaway Gardens receives reports or comments regarding matters of public health, we immediately contact the local health department and follow their protocol in the handling of all matters. Callaway Gardens recently handled one instance requiring us to contact the health department of Harris County, GA. 

Following the protocol of the Harris County Health Department and West Central Georgia Health District it was determined that this health matter did not pose a public health threat and was limited to an individual’s diagnosis. 

The leadership and professionalism of the health departments provided us the proper assurances that the health and safety of our guests was not at risk.  In order to provide our guests with information related to the precautionary measures taken on a regular basis, and to quell the “rumor mill” the following information is also being shared in regards to our water safety testing.

Callaway Gardens, as it has done for decades, voluntarily tests our recreation lake twice weekly leading up to and during swimming season. Natural recreation lakes are monitored using a test for Fecal Coliform bacteria.  While found in all natural lakes, this bacteria serves as an indicator. 

If levels are over the state set limit, this is an indicator that other problem bacteria could be present.  Historically our tests routinely provide results well below the set limit for concern and all recent testing has as well. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact at the West Central Georgia Health District at 706-321-6300.

The only type of meningitis that could be contracted from an area like Callaway Beach would be parasitic meningitis, a “very rare form of parasitic meningitis that causes a brain infection that is usually fatal,” the Centers for Disease Control’s website says.

“The parasite enters the body through the nose and is caused by the microscopic ameba,” the CDC continues.

The parasite that causes parasitic meningitis, naegleria fowleri, can be found all over the world, but most of the infections, according to the CDC, happen in warm freshwater locations in the southeast.

The ameba can be found in:

  • Bodies of warm freshwater, such as lakes and rivers
  • Geothermal (naturally hot) water, such as hot springs
  • Warm water discharge from industrial plants
  • Geothermal (naturally hot) drinking water sources
  • Swimming pools that are poorly maintained, minimally-chlorinated, and/or un-chlorinated
  • Water heaters. Naegleria fowleri grows best at higher temperatures up to 115°F (46°C) and can survive for short periods at higher temperatures.
  • Soil

Naegleria fowleri is not found in salt water, like the ocean.

The person who originally wrote this post has taken it down. When asked for comment, the person said the information was originally heard from someone else, and posted it with just their social media network in mind.  

Copyright 2015 WTVM. All rights reserved. 

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