Hot tub displays likely caused Legionnaires' cases

Hot tub display at a North Carolina state fair may be origin of deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease	 	 	 			Stock image

Hot tub display at a North Carolina state fair may be origin of deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease Stock image

A deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in North Carolina may stem from hot tubs that were on display inside an event center last month during a state fair, state health officials said Thursday.

A water sample from the Davis Event Center tested positive for Legionnaire's disease.

The fair was held at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher, North Carolina, about 110 miles (177 km) west of Charlotte, between September 6 and 15.

The news comes after health officials in Georgia this past August responded to a massive Legionnaires' outbreak linked to a hotel in Atlanta.

Early findings from the investigation showed that people who were diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease were much more likely to report walking by hot tubs - which were on display at an event center at the fair - compared with people who did not get sick, the statement said.

About 7,500 USA cases of Legionnaires' disease were reported in 2017, though it is known to be underdiagnosed, the CDC said.

The NCDHHS announced that preliminary findings from their investigation point to a display of hot tubs as the disease source. The evidence collected so far, it said, suggests that "low levels of Legionella present were able to grow in hot tubs or possibly some other source in the Davis Event Center, leading to exposure". People contract the disease when inhaling Legionella bacteria; it's not spread via person-to-person contact. Instead, it's commonly spread to the lungs through aerosolized water, in the form of a mist or vapor.

State health officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

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To trace the outbreak's cause, health officials reviewed what the Legionnaires' patients said about their movements at the fair.

"Health officials are also reporting early results from laboratory testing of environmental samples".

The survey asked the fairgoers for details such as when they attended, and what they did at the fair.

The Davis Event Center is closed while staff work to "minimize water aerosolization opportunities", state health officials said, citing the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

"While we all feel confident that the facility is safe, we want to take these proactive mitigation measures to reassure the public and our employees", the agency said.

"Although Legionnaires' disease is a rare infection, this is a reminder that the bacteria that cause it are common in nature and can be found in man-made water systems", said Dr. Moore.

No humans or animals have been affected by the Legionella bacteria.

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