Campground owner concerned about MDH characterization of disease outbreak

The Minnesota Department of Health is looking for people who stayed at a campground near Zumbrota last month.

It has to do with three cryptosporidiosis cases.

One of the patients was hospitalized.

In a press release Thursday, the state says all three are associated with the Shades of Sherwood Campground. It wants to talk to anyone who’s been there since July 1st, even if they haven’t gotten sick.

The release also states: "This step is especially important in this investigation because MDH investigators have been unable to get key information from the facility itself."

The state is calling it an outbreak, but Mike Thoreson, the campground’s owner, is disputing that characterization. He says the property handles a thousand people on a busy weekend, and the three cases constitute a small fraction of his visitors.

Thoreson has been running Shades of Sherwood since 2011 and has been owner since 2016. He says the property has never had a health concern, so this one came as a surprise.

"I had just heard about it on Tuesday," said Thoreson. "So two days ago was the first time it was brought to my attention that anybody had even gotten sick. At that time they said that it was something that had happened about a month ago, so I was curious as to why it was the first time I was hearing about it a month after the fact."

He also disputes the state saying it has been unable to get key information from the campground.

"They asked, they wanted us to turn over a bunch of sensitive customer data which we’re talking about thousands of customers during that period of time," says Thoreson. "I mentioned that it would take quite a bit of time to compile that information. I also told them that I wasn’t comfortable turning over private customer information without somebody knowing about it, and then basically they decided to go and release a press release about it after that before we even had a chance to discuss this."

Thoreson says previous inspections have not turned up any issues and the state has been previously complimentary of his record keeping.

"So my understanding is that something like cryptosporidium is something that can be contracted from a variety of different sources whether it’s from somebody touching a dead animal, to changing a diaper, to lots of different things and so it’s pretty hard to actually pinpoint where that’s coming from, says Thoreson. "So like I said the only thing that they were able to provide consistency on was to the fact that all three of them had been in the river at one point or another."

Looking to be proactive, the campground will likely suspend any river tubing activities this weekend as a precaution.

At the root of the state’s investigation is pinpointing what caused the illnesses.

MDH says cryptosporidiosis is the most common cause of recreational water illness outbreaks in the United States.

Approximately 350-450 cases of cryptosporidiosis are diagnosed in Minnesota each year.

The number to call if you’ve been at Shades of Sherwood Campground since July 1st is 651-201-5794.

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