Neither the Rhode Island nor Massachusetts health departments have yet told the public why 15 sixth graders came down with diarrhea, including two who tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.

But Arnie Gerson, who owns Camp Bournedale in Plymouth, MA, said health officials told him the outbreak was traced to tainted hamburger at his facility.  Gerson said the 72-year-old camp would no longer cook raw hamburger.

From now on, Gerson says, Camp Bournedale will serve only pre-cooked burgers to campers.  That’s if it serves hamburger at all.

Sixth graders from Rhode Island’s Lincoln Middle School returned Oct. 16 from the long planned three-day visit to the overnight facility located 52 miles away in Plymouth, MA.

Last spring, soon-to-be sixth graders from four Lincoln, RI elementary schools were recruited to attend the camp for $300 per student.  The price included meals, lodging, and academic course work and supplies.

Campers included as many as 300 students and their chaperones.

Students back from the camp last week were becoming ill and the two who tested positive for E. coli were admitted to the hospital.  School officials sought to assure parents there was no person-to-person contamination occurring, and health officials from the two states investigated.

The Lincoln Middle School nurse asked parents with children who were suffering from fever, vomiting, or diarrhea to call her immediately.

Lincoln Middle School is in Rhode Island’s Bristol/Warren School District.

Dr. Ed Mara, the superintendent, said the illnesses began when the sixth graders returned from the camp and escalated last week.  He did encourage parents to send children who are not sick to school so long as their immune systems are not compromised.

Bournedale is known for its summer camp for boys, especially for its golf program on the adjoining Atlantic Country Club.

Rhode Island is one of two places in the nation where the state investigates all foodborne illnesses rather than relying on a local or regional agency.