State Probing Illness Report

ST. MARYS — State officials in Columbus are in the process of determining if the illness of a Montgomery County resident is related to toxins in Grand Lake St. Marys.

Ohio Department of Health spokesperson Jennifer House told The Evening Leader Monday the state agency is working with the Montgomery County Health Department to determine if the illness is linked to toxins found in the lake. House said so far this year there have been two residents who reported illnesses possibly linked to water exposure — one was at Grand Lake St. Marys and one was at Buckeye Lake.

"At this point we haven't classified any of these cases," House said. "We are just looking into them."

The state has four classifications for illnesses — not a case, suspected case, probably case and confirmed case. Last year, there were 21 cases investigated by the Ohio Department of Health regarding Grand Lake St. Marys. Twelve of those cases can back as not a case.

"We want to make sure people understand that just because it's reported, doesn't mean it's a case caused by exposure to toxins," House said.

Currently, Grand Lake St. Marys is listed as a public health advisory under the revamped warning system unveiled this year. As part of a public health advisory, visitors to the lake are encouraged to refrain from swimming and wading in the lake, water should not be swallowed and surface scum should be avoided. In the most recent testing, conducted last week, microcystin levels in the lake ranged from 5.6 parts per billion to 34.2 ppb. Last year, microcystin levels exceed 2,000 ppb.

House said health officials must first rule out other causes of illness, like the flu or West Nile virus, before determining a classification. They also must determine if an algal bloom was present during exposure, among other requirements. House said she hoped officials would have a decision in the coming days.

"They are working with the local health department to gather additional information," House said. "We hope that we will have an initial classification by the end of this week or early next week. Some of it depends on the local health department and the information they can provide us."