NCDHHS officially ties 2019 Legionnaires’ outbreak that killed 4 to hot tubs at state fair

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services confirmed in their final report released Thursday that last year’s Legionnaires’ disease outbreak was tied to hot tubs at a state fair.

According to NCDHHS, their investigation determined that the outbreak was “was likely caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria in aerosolized water from hot tubs on display during the” NC Mountain State Fair that was held Sept. 6-15, 2019, at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher, just outside Asheville.

“Hot tubs are a well-established source of aerosolized water exposure and have been linked to other Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks nationally and internationally,” NCDHHS said.

The outbreak was first identified on Sept. 23, 2019, just over a week after the fair ended.

After identifying the outbreak, state and local public health departments, along with the Centers for Disease Control, launched an investigation.

“This report highlights the rapid, coordinated public health response that occurred,” said Dr. Zack Moore, State Epidemiologist. “Thanks to the dedication and work of local and state public health staff and our partners, we were able to quickly rule out any significant ongoing exposures at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center and provide early investigation findings to the public in less than two weeks.”

Legionnaires’ disease is a lung infection that people can get “when they breathe in aerosolized water (small droplets of water in the air) that contains the Legionella bacteria,” according to health officials.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include fever, cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms can be very similar to the flu or other respiratory infections that are common at this time of year.

Legionnaires’ disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics, but it is a serious illness, according to NCDHHS.

The State’s investigation identified 136 cases of Legionnaires’ disease and one case of Pontiac Fever in residents of North Carolina, as well as multiple other states, who had attended the Mountain State Fair. Of those 137 patients, 96 were hospitalized and four died.

You can read the final report here.

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