Splash park at Tanganyika Wildlife Park temporarily closed after reports of illness
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update Monday, June 21, 2021: The director for Tanganyika Wildlife Park addressed the possible link between the splash park at the wildlife park and reports of more than 20 children getting sick. Parents suspect the illnesses are from the water in Tanganyika’s splash park. The splash park is temporarily closed as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Sedgwick County Health Department investigate the cases.
Tanganyika Wildlife Park Director Matt Fouts said there are close to 24 cases, some so severe, kids were admitted to the hospital. Tanganyika closed down the splash park just three weeks after the grand opening.
“I don’t know how many cases, you know, going through the Facebook comments of all the people that kind of said, ‘hey, we got sick. It looks like there’s about two dozen people,” Fouts said.
The Sedgwick County Health Department launched an investigation Saturday to find out if there is a connection between the illnesses and the waterpark. Of the cases reported, kids are experiencing high fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
“I’m a dad. I have three kids, I get it. If your kid is sick, if your kid is in the hospital, you just want them to be healthy,” Fouts said. “My kids have been in the splash park a lot since it opened. I want everyone to be safe. . I’m thinking about, and praying for all those kids, especially the ones that went to the hospital that they do recover. As a parent, I get the frustration and fear.”
Fouts said Tanganyika is working closely with the Sedgwick County Health Department to figure out exactly what happened with the splash park and kids getting sick. There currently is no timeline on when the investigation will wrap up or when the splash park could reopen.
June 20, 2021: The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Sedgwick County Health Department are investigating several people with diarrheal illness after visiting Tanganyika Wildlife Park, west of Wichita.
A note from Tanganyika confirms that the zoo’s splash park is temporarily closed due to reports of some visitors to the new attraction getting sick.
The information, from Tanganyika Wildlife Park Director Matt Fouts did not specify how many people reported becoming ill after visiting the splash pad. Fouts said he was notified late Friday afternoon, June 18, by the Sedgwick County Health Department “with some concerns of a possible connection of illness.” Fouts said the health department wanted to take water samples.
“After further discussions with the health department toward the end of the day Saturday, I chose to voluntarily (and temporarily) close the splash park until I could ensure the safety of our visitors,” Fouts said.
Fouts thanked everyone who reached out about illnesses possibly being connected with the splash park and on behalf of Tanganyika said, “our thoughts and prayers will be with those that are sick or recovering.”
“Second, this situation has been evolving rapidly, and I am sharing information as I have it,” Fouts said. “We are not trying to cover anything up and are taking guidance from the Sedgwick County Health Department.”
Fouts said he understands the safety concern “as a father whose kids have been playing in the splash park regularly and an uncle whose nephew is working in the splash park daily.”
“I understand and share your safety concerns,” he said. “It’s in no one’s best interest, including our family-owned businesses, to have people getting sick due to visiting.”
If you experienced symptoms of fever, diarrhea or vomiting after visiting Tanganyika Wildlife Park on or after May 28, 2021, the health department and KDHE ask you to take this survey at https://tinyurl.com/kdhesplash.
If you live in Sedgwick County and do not have access to a computer to complete the survey, contact the Sedgwick County Health Department via email at DiseaseReporting@sedgwick.gov or call the COVID-19 line at 316-660-1022 (press 1 to leave a message). Sedgwick County said it is working to set up a separate, non-COVID phone line which will be released this week.
If you live outside of Sedgwick County and do not have access to a computer to complete the survey, health officials say you should contact your local health department.
“This is very early in the investigation, a news release from the KDHE and Sedgwick County Health Department said. “As KDHE and Sedgwick County continue to further investigate and work with Tanganyika Wildlife Park, updates will be provided to the public and patrons of the park.”
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