A Legionnaires’ disease epidemic that has killed several people in a northern California county is being looked at by health officials.
Since July 11, 12 people in Napa County have received a diagnosis of the uncommon lung illness and have been admitted to the hospital, according to Napa County Public Health. Health officials said on Wednesday that one of the patients has passed away and three others are still hospitalised.
The county has been checking for the presence of the bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease in human-made water sources, such as cooling towers and decorative fountains, as part of its inquiry.
According to preliminary findings, a sample collected from a cooling tower at the Embassy Suites Napa Valley hotel in the city of Napa contained “high levels” of the Legionella bacteria.
The county health agency reported that the cooling tower has been shut down, “which mitigates any ongoing risk to public health,” and that it is still looking for sources with dangerous levels of the bacteria.
The source of exposure is still being addressed by Embassy Suites staff, according to a statement from Napa County health official Dr. Karen Relucio. Finding Legionella in a single water sample is a crucial piece of the puzzle, but we still need to look into additional cooling towers and water sources in the vicinity of the outbreak because many sources are frequently found.
According to health experts, none of the 12 people who have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease have ever stayed at or visited the Embassy Suites.
According to a representative for Embassy Suites by Hilton Napa Valley, the hotel is still “cooperating completely” with the county’s ongoing inquiry.
The spokesperson issued a statement saying, “We are waiting for a comprehensive report with test results from the health department, but remain rigorous in our commitment to creating a safe, welcoming environment for everybody.” “In keeping with that pledge and after hearing about their concerns, we quickly contacted our consultant and water treatment provider to make sure we were adhering to the health department’s guidelines and started remediation,” the statement continued.
Warm water encourages the growth of the Legionella bacteria, which can pose a health risk when it spreads in artificial water systems including cooling towers, hot tubs, decorative fountains, and piping. People who breathe in tiny droplets of water carrying the bacteria will get Legionnaires’ illness.
Cough, fever, and breathing difficulties are symptoms of Legionnaires’ illness. When detected early, it is treatable with medications and is not contagious.
Ages 50 and older, smokers, people with chronic lung disease, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease, a dangerous form of pneumonia.
Health officials said the victim of the Napa County epidemic was over 50 and had risk indicators for “severe illness.”
Despite the rarity of the infection, Relucio noted that the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease are widespread in nature and can be found in artificial water systems. Therefore, it’s crucial for owners and administrators of water systems that can produce aerosols to take action to stop Legionella from multiplying and spreading within those systems.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the true number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the U.S. in 2018 may be 1.8 to 2.7 times greater than what is reported by health departments. According to the CDC, about one in ten instances end in death.