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May 2003 Vol. 18, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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CoCo View: Redux

from the May, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In the February issue, we gave Roatan's CoCo View Resort a thumbs down due to repeated turista outbreaks among the guests -- and even the staff. In January, Terry Evans, who runs CoCo View's booking agency, Roatan Charter, told Undercurrent, "The intestinal problem occurring on the island disappeared before it could be identified or its source traced. We have not had any problems recently and have not heard of any new occurrences from the other hotels."

Since then, we've received more reports from folks who've suffered intestinal problems while at the resort -- some as recently as April -- Internet bulletin boards have many reports. Ron Queen (Fortuna, CA), estimates that 75 percent of the guests were affected while he and his wife were at CoCo View last December. Another reader reported that "31 of 36 divers were sick within two days. Intestinal sickness. Speaking with the bartender, I was informed this was an ongoing problem. My dive buddy was in bed for 18 hours only to venture to the bathroom."

We called Evans again and told him that things looked even worse than originally reported. His response: "You've got a serious exaggeration." Evans maintained that on a recent visit, he had heard no reports of sickness other than "traveler's stomach." Incidents of this malady date back to 1982, when the resort was opened, he says. Evans claimed that "some kind of virus" was being passed around from October to January, which also affected other tour groups to Honduras. The last long duration of it happened in the '80s and early '90s.

However, the virus defense is specious. Ernie Campbell, M.D., (www.scuba-doc.com) told us that "The bacteria is most often enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli of fecal origin, but other coliform bacteria can cause the syndrome of 'traveler's diarrhea.' All water has a certain level of bacteria, even in this country. Some people from other countries visit here, and they get 'turista' because of the lack of resistance to the local strain of the bacteria. If the other resorts on Roatan don't have the same level of 'turista,' then one must deduce that something must be wrong with the sewage/water supply at CoCo View." And Undercurrent rarely receives reports of problems at other Roatan or Bay Island resorts.

Co-owner Evelyn Evans has reportedly scheduled Honduran Health Department inspections twice since October, but no problems have been pinpointed. She has invited guests with restaurant experience to investigate the kitchen, again with no results. Terry Evans (who is not an owner) says that the entire kitchen staff rotates every two weeks, and anyone who's ill is sent home.

However, the problem may not be isolated to the kitchen. Some visitors have reported strong sewage odors in their cabins and by the resort's lagoon following heavy rains. This winter was the wettest rainy season since 1982 (i.e., the resort's history). Evans claims, "They (the owners) have done everything I can think of and as far as I can tell, it's gone." However, he added, "It will come back; it comes to every resort."

In defense of resort management, Evans said, "When there's a problem, they address it. CoCo View doesn't make money by making guests sick. I have no complaints on my desk other than in exit surveys. The staff discuss these surveys and respond to guests with complaints." However, Ron Queen says he never got a response when he mentioned the problem on his evaluation form.

The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. Based on what Evans told Undercurrent, we have to say that any future visit to CoCo View should be considered a crap shoot!

The study, published in the Journal of the British Medical Association, tracked 50,000 people who reported gastrointestinal infections and compared them with 500,000 people who did not. Dr. Kare Molbak, of the Danish Epidemiology Science Center in Copenhagen, said that infected people had more than double the risk of death over the course of a year. He said other studies had shown that these infections could cause a variety of complications, including dehydration, unnecessary surgery when abdominal pain was misdiagnosed, and the spread of the infection through the bloodstream. "Nearly all of these complications are treatable if patients seek early medical attention,'' Dr. Molbak said. "Patients who think that they have got a severe food-born infection should seek medical treatment.''

If any restaurant or hotel in the United States had a fraction of the gastrointestinal problems reported by the people who visit CoCo View, it would be shut down immediately.

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