’Flu-like bug strikes church camp

Close to 115 people with the United Church camp had their week of activities cut short Thursday when an outbreak of a bad ’flu-like bug ripped through Sunny Cove, bringing in officials from the Northwestern Health Unit.
“We had a couple of kids wake up early in the morning [Thursday] who were sick to their stomach and then a couple more,” said Lincoln Dunn, a volunteer organizer for the camp.
“And when we got them taken care of and back to the bed, then we got more at about 6:30 [a.m.],” he added.
“We had about a dozen by about that time.”
It was around 3:30 a.m. on Thursday when camp nurse Stacy Beacham got the first nudge from a youngster complaining of feeling ill. She treated the camper and went back to bed.
But when more and more kids filtered into the sick bay with symptoms of nausea, cramping, and diarrhea, that’s when Beacham figured there was a problem.
“One came and then 10 minutes later another one came, and then 15 minutes later two more came and at that time I started thinking, ‘We’re in trouble, something’s happening,’” said Beacham.
“When I woke up, about a quarter of the camp was in the sick bay area,” noted youth leader Joe Bodnar.
Camp leaders decided to call the Northwestern Health Unit at about 7 a.m. and Brian Norris, the public health inspector for this area, arrived at 9 a.m. with his “outbreak kits” ready to be opened.
“We’re looking at everything,” said Norris. “The cause is unknown, so you have to try and determine what caused it and that could be anything from food-borne, water-borne, or a communicable disease.
“What we try to do is get samples of what we can and get some samples from anyone that is affected. I take samples of whatever I can get,” he added.
Norris didn’t want to speculate Thursday afternoon on what he thinks caused the outbreak, noting the water samples should be arriving in Thunder Bay on Friday.
Meanwhile, the food samples (spaghetti meat sauce and sloppy joe meat) were sent to Toronto and should also be arriving there Friday by air.
But because of the long weekend, Norris was unsure when he will be getting the results. He said if kids are still feeling ill, they should see a physician.
“The other campers were told by their camp director when their parents picked them up and told them there was an incident and to monitor their kids, and if they felt concern enough to for sure go see a physician,” Norris said.
This is the 10th year for the United Church camp, whose campers hail from different congregations across Rainy River District. Dunn hopes this incident won’t keep people from attending future camps at Sunny Cove.
“Obviously that’s one of our concerns because we don’t want people thinking, ‘Hey, come to the United Church camp and get sick’ because that’s not the case,” stressed Dunn, whose wife, Frances Flook, is the minister for the United Church in Emo and Devlin.
“We took every precaution,” said Dunn. “Our kitchen staff are trained properly, we have hand sanitizers and gloves and all those good things, and it still happened.”
Sunny Cove has not been closed, nor have any upcoming camps been cancelled. In fact, the Northern Echo Bible Camp will be arriving there Saturday for a week of activities.