An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in North Carolina that’s killed at least one person and sickened 124 others has been linked to a hot tub display at a state fair, state health officials announced this week.
Officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday said in a press release that those diagnosed with the disease “were much more likely to have visited the Davis Event Center while at the [North Carolina Mountain State Fair] and much more likely to report having walked by the hot tub displays compared to people who did not get sick.”
The event housed many vendors during the fair, including those for hot tubs.
“Health officials are also reporting early results from laboratory testing of environmental samples. To date, testing has identified Legionella bacteria in one water sample taken from the Davis Event Center; results are still pending from other samples taken as part of this investigation,” they added.
Though the investigation into the outbreak is ongoing, health officials suspect 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 through breathing in aerosolized water that contained the bacteria.”
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia. People contract the disease when inhaling Legionella bacteria; it’s not spread via person-to-person contact. Legionella pneumophila, a bacterium, is usually the cause of the illness, per the Mayo Clinic. It can be found in soil and water, but more commonly causes infection when it multiplies in water systems (e.g., hot tubs and air conditioners).
The disease is treatable with antibiotics and those who are sickened typically recover in full. Symptoms often include fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath.
The news comes after health officials in Georgia this past August responded to a massive Legionnaires’ outbreak linked to a hotel in Atlanta. At the time, a state health official told Fox News that the Legionella outbreak was the largest ever recorded in Georgia.
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