October 4, 2019 / 6:58 PM / 10 days ago

Legionnaire's outbreak linked to hot tubs kills one, sickens dozens in North Carolina

(Reuters) - An outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease that has killed one person and sickened dozens of others in North Carolina may have spread from contaminated hot tubs at a state fair last month, authorities said.

The 120 people who have fallen ill with Legionnaire’s, and eight who contracted its milder version Pontiac Fever, attended or worked at the fair, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement on Thursday.

The infected were likely exposed to Legionella bacteria as they walked by a hot tub display at the North Carolina Mountain State Fair, the statement said.

At least one person died and more than 80 have been hospitalized, it said.

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

Lab results confirmed that water samples from the state fair event center contained the bacteria that causes the disease, a severe form of pneumonia characterized by coughing, aches, high fever. It is typically spread through water droplets in the air, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it had temporarily closed the event center where the hot tubs had been on display while the investigation is underway.

“This is being done out of an abundance of caution and to reassure event attendees, fairgoers and Ag Center employees that the center is safe for occupancy,” the department 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,” Zack Moore, the state’s chief epidemiologist, said in the statement.

Legionnaire’s was discovered and named in 1976 when an outbreak occurred among people who attended a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion, and the number of U.S. cases reported annually increased more than fivefold between 2000 and 2017, according to the CDC.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Tom Brown

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