Camp director speaks out after Norovirus outbreak at Highlands County 4H camp

Highlands County

Camp Cloverleaf accepted its first group of campers Monday, more than a week after a health scare sent 33 people to the hospital.

Thirty-three people, mainly campers, from Camp Cloverleaf, a 4H camp, were sent to the hospital on June 21 after they suddenly became ill. The Department of Health determined the sudden illness was caused by the Norovirus.

We started out with a couple people started getting nauseous. Then all of the sudden, like wildfire, in a matter of probably an hour, an hour and a half, there were just kids constantly getting sick, until it was almost overwhelming, and we had to call in professional help,” Camp Director Steve Cooper told WFLA exclusively on Monday. 

Cooper said they regularly clean the camp and have the water tested.

We always have our lake sampled, the water sampled, and we have an intense cleaning crew that cleans every week. It just happened, stuff gets through the cracks apparently.”

He said in his 30 years with the camp, he’s never seen anything like it.

“You have an occasional child who gets sick or something happened, but at that volume like that, that was just unbelievable.”

To make sure there were no signs of the virus when a new group of campers arrived Monday, the cleaning company SERVPRO was called in.

“It was intensive. They did all of the mattresses, the railings, the kayaks, the canoes, the paddles, life jackets. Any paper products around, they threw away. They scrubbed everything. They even went into the staff cabins and took all of their personal clothes, the curtains, and cleaned everything,” Cooper told WFLA.

The Department of Health worked with staff on proper hand washing techniques and gave the all clear for campers to arrive as scheduled Monday.

“Camps are going as scheduled, and we haven’t had any cancellations,” Cooper said. 

The Department of Health is still investigating where the illness originated, but told WFLA with so many people impacted, they may never find out.

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