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Tests show Woodward Reservoir not likely cause of illness
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The claims of a San Joaquin County man that swimming at Woodward Reservoir made him sick have not been confirmed by any laboratory test results.

The San Joaquin Department of Public Health was not able to determine the source of the campylobacter infection of the man stating the lake caused his infection, said Jami Aggers, Stanislaus County’s director of parks and recreation.

The Stockton man was hospitalized following a family outing to the reservoir on June 7. He was experiencing a high fever and had bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. The family believed it was the water that sickened him and took to social media to spread their message.

“The statement that the water was the cause of the illness and that the reservoir should be shut down — even before a public health investigation occurred — was very emotionally charged and difficult for us,” said Aggers. “We knew the probability of the water being the cause of the infection was medically unlikely.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States with an estimated 1.3 million infections per year. According to the California Department of Public Health, an estimated 200,000 Californians are infected each year.  Symptoms usually begin two to five days after exposure to Campylobacter and last about a week.

Campylobacteriosis is most commonly associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry. Chickens are frequently infected with campylobacter although they may not show symptoms. Past studies have shown that over half of the raw chicken meat sold in the United States contains campylobacter. Cross-contamination with campylobacter can sometimes occur when raw poultry is sliced on a cutting board, and the unwashed board or knife is then used to prepare vegetables or other lightly cooked foods.

In addition to poultry, other animals can also be infected by campylobacter. Outbreaks of campylobacteriosis have occurred when people drink surface or stream water that has been contaminated by infected birds or cows. Additionally, people have become ill from drinking or eating products made with unpasteurized milk from infected cows. People have also become ill after direct exposure to the feces of an infected dog or cat.

Aggers said it can be difficult to isolate the source of campylobacter.

Test results of the water in the lake received Thursday show the total coliform bacteria count is significantly down since the busy Memorial Day holiday, below the threshold level where the county would ordinarily post notices of high bacteria content.  E.Coli counts continue to remain low as well in the test results, Aggers said.

The county has posted signs warning people about the water and to “swim at their own risk.”