Another person has died as a result of a Legionnaires’ outbreak in North Carolina, state health officials announced late last week.
The death of a fourth person due to the outbreak – possibly linked to a hot tub display at the North Carolina Mountain State Fair, which took place Sept. 6-15 at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher – was revealed in an updated interim report released Friday by officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Health officials also have confirmed 141 cases of Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, a milder form of the illness.
The outbreak has affected North Carolina residents as well as those in other states. Ninety-four people, or about 69 percent, have been hospitalized due to the outbreak.
A hot tub display within the Davis Event Center at the fair, as well as a cooling fan outside of the center, were identified as possible sources of Legionella bacteria. In an Oct. 3 update, health officials said those sickened were more likely to say they walked by the hot tub display compared to those who were not sickened.
In its Friday report, North Carolina health officials said a water sample from the women’s restroom within the Davis Event Center tested positive for Legionella pneumophila. However, the sample was “genetically different” from clinical samples taken from those affected by the outbreak, they noted.
“It is important to note that environmental samples were not collected until between 12 and 22 days after the end of the Mountain State Fair and might not represent conditions during the fair,” officials stated, adding that testing is ongoing.
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 responded to a massive Legionnaires’ outbreak this past August, 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 the state.