Outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in NC mountains traced back to hot tubs at fair


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in North Carolina and South Carolina has been traced back to hot tub displays at the N.C. Mountain State Fair, state health officials said Thursday.

There have been 124 cases of Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever, which is a milder form of infection, reported in people who attended or worked the N.C. Mountain State Fair, according to a release from the Department of Health and Human Services.

One of those diagnosed died. Sixteen percent of those diagnosed required care in the hospital, officials said at a press conference.

It’s the largest Legionnaires’ disease breakout in North Carolina history.

Preliminary findings lead health officials to believe people diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease likely visited the Davis Event Center while at the fair and are even more likely to have reported walking past the hot tub displayed, the release said.

“Finding Legionella in one water sample is an important piece of the puzzle, but it does not tell us how so many people were exposed at this event,” said Dr. Zack Moore, State Epidemiologist. “To get Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, you have to breathe in Legionella in aerosolized water, meaning small droplets like mists or vapors.”

People who got sick were also more likely to have visited the event center during the latter half of the fair.

Testing identified Legionella in one water sample taken from the event center. Results are still pending from other samples, the release said.

Water systems that have been linked to past outbreaks include:

  • Hot tubs
  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Large plumbing systems
  • Cooling towers (structures that contain water and a fan as part of centralized air cooling systems for building or industrial processes)
  • Decorative fountains

As of Thursday, there is no indication of an ongoing exposure since the end of the N.C. Mountain State Fair.

Click here for more information from the DHHS.

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