News release: Health, Minneapolis parks officials close Lake Nokomis beaches after E. coli outbreak identified

News Release
Aug. 14, 2019

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Health, Minneapolis parks officials close Lake Nokomis beaches after E. coli outbreak identified

Three children who swam at beach around same time have same strain of bacterial illness

The Minnesota Department of Health today confirmed three cases of a strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, or STEC, in three children who swam at Lake Nokomis beaches in Minneapolis in late July or early August. Waterborne disease specialists with MDH recommended that the lake’s beaches be closed until further notice while staff assess if there is any ongoing risk to the public. Officials with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board took immediate action to close the beaches.

The children became ill between August 2 and August 5 after swimming at the lake between July 26 and August 2. None have been hospitalized.

“This is the first report of people getting ill from swimming in Minneapolis lakes we have had in more than two decades,” said Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Board Al  Bangoura. “We take this news very seriously and are working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health as they conduct their investigation.”

State health officials said it’s possible that there are people who were exposed to E. coli at Lake Nokomis who became infected but have not yet become ill or have not yet seen a health care provider. “This strain of E. coli can lead to serious illness,” said Trisha Robinson, waterborne disease supervisor of MDH. “We encourage anyone who swam recently at Lake Nokomis and has symptoms of E. coli to contact their health care provider.”

Park staff is contacting swim lesson participants and organizers of lake events held since late July to encourage them to contact the MDH if they have been sick.

Symptoms of illness caused by STEC typically include stomach cramps and diarrhea, often with bloody stools, but only a low-grade or no fever. People typically become ill two to five days after exposure, but this period can range from one to eight days. Most people recover in five to 10 days. However, STEC infections sometimes lead to a serious complication involving kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS. Those most at risk of developing complications from STEC include children younger than 10, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.

Diarrhea associated with STEC infections should NOT be treated with antibiotics, as this practice might promote the development of HUS. Anyone who believes they may have developed a STEC infection should contact their health care provider.

“This is also an important reminder that anyone who is experiencing diarrhea should not go swimming while they are sick,” Robinson said. 

More information on STEC and how to prevent it can be found on the MDH E. coli website.

If you believe you have been sick after swimming at Lake Nokomis, please call the Foodborne and Waterborne Illness Hotline at 651-201-5655 or email at


Media inquiries:

Doug Schultz
Minnesota Department of Health Communications

Dawn Sommers
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Communications