A Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in California’s Napa County has caused one death and nearly a dozen hospitalizations since mid-July. Public health officials have found one possible source of the bacteria that causes the illness, with high levels of Legionella bacteria being found in a water sample taken from a cooling tower at Embassy Suites Napa Valley. However, none of those who were sickened had visited or stayed at the hotel.
According to a Napa County statement: “The cooling tower has since been taken offline, which mitigates any ongoing risk to public health.” Dr. Karen Relucio, the county’s health officer, said in the statement that county and state public health investigators have been working with hotel staff to “remediate the source of exposure, but we must continue to investigate other cooling towers and water sources in the outbreak area, as it is common to find more than one source.”
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by a bacteria that grows in warm water. People can get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in water vapor containing the bacteria. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Outbreaks are commonly associated with buildings or structures that have complex water systems, like hotels and resorts, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and cruise ships. The most likely sources of infection include water used for showering, hot tubs, decorative fountains, and cooling towers.” The disease isn’t contagious, and can be treated with antibiotics, but can be dangerous for some people, such as those with pre-existing conditions. Symptoms include muscle aches, fever and chills.
A dozen Napa County residents have been hospitalized with the disease since July 11. Three remain hospitalized and one person died; the county said that person was over the age of 50 and had “risk factors for severe disease.”
Editorial credit: Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock.com