Storye.c oli.jpgE. coli attorney Bill Marler is calling on the City of Opelika to pay medical expenses incurred by victims of a recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to the Opelika SportsPlex and Aquatics Center Splash Park. 

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADHP), at least 13 children and two adults experienced severe gastrointestinal illness after playing and swimming at the Aquatic Center and Splash Park between June 4 and June 22.  Five children who visited the Splash Park, which is run by the Opelika Parks and Recreation Department, have tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 infection.  Four children were initially hospitalized and two remained so as of June 29.

“It’s highly unfortunate when something as innocent as a day at the pool turns into such a painful event,” said Marler. “The City ought to make sure the families affected by this are taken care of.  It is simply the right thing to do.”

Marler’s firm, Marler Clark, has represented hundreds of victims of past water park outbreaks. In 1998 the firm represented victims of an E. coli outbreak linked to a water park in Atlanta in which many of children developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of E. coli infection that can cause acute kidney failure.  In 2005 he represented over 600 people infected with Cryptosporidium at a spray park in central New York. 

Marler believes water parks need to do a better job of monitoring water quality to ensure safety for park users. “It is paramount that water parks stick to the CDC guidelines for chlorine and pH levels to ensure the safety of all swimmers,” he said.  “While the failure to do so might seem like a simple oversight, the sometimes life-changing ramifications felt by E. coli victims–especially those who suffer HUS—and their families prove otherwise.” 

E. coli can be transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated food or water.  Symptoms of infection may include sudden abdominal pain, severe cramping, and bloody diarrhea.  In about 10 percent of E. coli cases HUS occurs 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people choosing to use water parks to take the following precautions:

  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea
  • Don’t swallow pool water
  • Shower, or wash your child, with soap and water before swimming
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after using a toilet or after changing diapers
  • Take your children on bathroom breaks or check diapers often
  • Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside