2008 Children's Camp Incident Summary

In 2008, two thousand eight hundred seventy one (2,871) children's camps were issued permits to operate by local health departments (LHDs) in New York State. Five hundred sixty seven were overnight camps and 2,304 were day camps, including 344 municipal day camps and 29 traveling summer day camps. It is estimated that over 900,000 children attend NYS children's camps each year.

To assess the health and safety at camps, a children's camp incident surveillance system is maintained. This system requires camp operators to report serious injuries, illness and allegations of camper abuse to LHDs, which investigate the incidents and enter information into an electronic database. A total of 1,156 incidents (2,834 victims) were reported statewide, indicating that approximately three-tenths of 1% of campers experience injury and illness while at camp. Statewide analysis of the data is used for injury prevention and control and has been used to amend the State Sanitary Code (SSC) and develop administrative guidance. The following summarizes the 2008 reportable incidents.


Nine hundred (900) injuries were reported during the 2008 camping season. This represents a slight increase in the number of injuries reported when compared to 2007.


Forty-four (44) outbreaks were reported. These include twenty-three outbreaks of gastroenteritis (GI) (1325 cases), six conjunctivitis outbreaks (24 cases), three pediculosis outbreaks (83 cases), three Fifth's Disease outbreaks (9 cases), three Coxsackie virus outbreaks (8 cases), two strep throat outbreaks (36 cases), one bronchitis outbreak (8 cases), and one outbreak of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Infection (MRSA) (26 cases).

The 23 outbreaks of GI at Children's Camps resulted in 1325 cases of illness. In the previous five-year period, there was an average of six GI illness outbreaks per year, causing an average of 142 cases of illness. The outbreaks had onsets from June 30 to August 21. Six outbreaks had at least one clinical sample result positive for calicivirus. Seventeen outbreaks had no clinical sample analysis or had samples that yielded negative results for calicivirus. Of those with no clinical sample results to support the categorization, four outbreaks were suspected to be viral. Symptoms were similar in all of the outbreaks. None of the investigations identified a mode of transmission other than person to person.

Other Illness

There were an additional six cases of MRSA infection reported not related to an outbreak during the 2008 camp season.

Abuse Allegations:

Twelve (12) allegations of abuse with a total of 15 victims were reported. Four victims were alleged to have suffered physical abuse, ten victims were alleged to have suffered sexual abuse and one victim is alleged to have suffered both physical and sexual abuse. The alleged perpetrator was a counselor or other staff member in six incidents (nine victims), another camper in five incidents (five victims) and the victim's parent in one incident. Multiple perpetrators were identified in one physical and one sexual abuse allegation.

Rabies Exposures:

There were thirty-six (36) probable bat-exposure incidents resulting in one hundred eighty (180) potential camper and staff rabies exposures during the 2008 camping season. In 11 of these incidents, the bats were not captured and resulted in 33 individuals being recommended for rabies post exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Twenty-nine of the victims received the treatment, and four victims refused treatment.

In 24 of the incidents, the bat was captured and tested negative for rabies. PEP treatment was avoided for 137 individuals. In one incident, the bat was captured and tested positive for the rabies virus. PEP treatment was recommended for ten individuals. Seven received PEP, one had been treated as a result of an earlier exposure, and two have not responded.

PEP treatment for rabies was avoided for eight campers who were exposed to a raccoon, which died shortly after the exposure but tested negative for rabies. In a separate incident, one camper was bitten by a raccoon when she awoke and startled the animal. Since the raccoon was not captured, PEP was recommended and received by the victim.

Epinephrine Administration:

There were fourteen incidents in which Epinephrine was administered. Six administrations were necessary for bee or wasp stings, three for food allergies and five for other allergies. Camps that participate in the Epinephrine Auto-injector program provided three Auto-injector administrations and one subcutaneous injection administered by an RN as prescribed by their doctor. Two campers received epinephrine after being transported to the hospital. Seven Auto-injector administrations were to people that did not have their own Epi-pen prescribed to them. These administrations highlight the importance of the Epi-pen program, which allows children's camps to stock and administer Epi-pens to patients that may not know they have a severe allergy, or do not have their own Epi-pen with them.


Three camper deaths occurred in camps during the 2008 season. Two of these (one injury and one due to illness) occurred at regulated camps. The third occurred at an unregulated camp that operated without the knowledge of the LHD having jurisdiction.

  1. Incident #1: An injury death occurred at an overnight camp when a 14-year old camper fell from a tree. He was observed by a counselor and instructed to get down, but the branch he was on broke, plunging the victim to the ground. The camper succumbed to his injuries later that day. This is the second camper death resulting from a fall from a tree since 2005, highlighting the need to prevent these unauthorized activities.
  2. Incident #2: A 17-year-old male developmentally disabled camper with several chronic health conditions died in his sleep at an overnight children's camp. The incident occurred after the camper spent visiting day with his family and was reported to be in good health. He was discovered the following morning when he did not get up on schedule. Camp staff were present in the bunk overnight and reported no distress associated with the camper.
  3. Incident #3: A twelve-year old camper drowned after slipping into the Niagara River during a hiking activity. The girl was one of approximately 23 children attending an overnight children's camp that did not have a permit to operate from the LHD. During the hike, a group of campers departed from the marked park trail, and the victim slipped into the swiftly moving water when she attempted to put her feet into the river. Her body was recovered several days later.

Incident Summary Report Graphs