Family of sick children looks for answers after visiting Tanganyika Splash Park

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 9:11 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Tanganyika’s brand new splash park is now temporary closed as health officials work to investigate an illness potentially linked to it.

“My whole family from Alabama, they spent three hundred dollars on passes to go to that zoo and most of them are sick,” said Cameron Vandusen, father of sick children.

Vandusen’s fiancé and their three daughters visited the splash park Friday, June 18th along with a dozen other family members visiting from Alabama. The next morning, their four-year-old Kennedy woke up with a fever, diarrhea and vomiting.

“She hasn’t ate anything all day,” said Vandusen. “We tried to give her crackers, we’re keeping fluids going but every time she drinks, she just throws it back up. We had a big 40 to 50 family reunion today and it got canceled due to this.”

As the Vandusens waited at the hospital while their daughter went through testing, Tanganyika was working with the KDHE and Sedgwick County Health Department to investigate a possible link between their splash park and these illnesses.

The Tanganyika Wildlife Park staff voluntarily closed the splash park on a temporary basis until the park could ensure that all visitors would be safe while enjoying the new attraction.

“The main thing is not getting dehydrated, that they’re still peeing OK, they’re alert,” said Dr. Robert Wittler.

Doctor Wittler is the KU Wichita Pediatrics Infectious Disease Director. He said there are several reasons people could be sick but it’s hard to say if it’s linked to Tanganyika until the health department finishes its investigation.

“The norovirus, enterovirus, there’s a lot of viruses that get transmitted from person to person but also through water, particularly noroviruses,” said Dr. Wittler. “There have been outbreaks of e. coli from water parks or kiddy pools or petting zoos.”

While it’s not quite clear what exactly happened, Dr. Wittler said any bloody stools in a child is a medical emergency and a primary care doctor or emergency center should be contacted.

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