1 dead, 11 sick in California county legionellosis outbreak

Health officials are investigating a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in a northern California county.

Twelve Napa County residents have been diagnosed and hospitalized with a rare lung infection since July 11, according to Napa County Public Health. Of those, one person has died and three people remain hospitalized, health officials said on Wednesday.

As part of its investigation, the county tested man-made water sources, including cooling towers and decorative fountains, for the presence of the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.

Preliminary results revealed “high levels” of the Legionella bacteria in a sample taken from a cooling tower at the Embassy Suites Napa Valley hotel in the city of Napa.

The cooling tower was taken offline, “mitigating any continued risk to public health,” and the county health department said it was continuing to identify any other sources that contained dangerous amounts of bacteria.

“Our joint investigation team continues to work with Embassy Suites staff to address the source of exposure,” Napa County Health Officer Dr. Karen Relucio said in a statement. “Finding Legionella in a water sample is an important piece of the puzzle, but we need to continue to investigate other cooling towers and water sources in the outbreak area, as it is common to find more a source.”

None of the 12 patients diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease have been identified as having stayed at or visited the Embassy Suites hotel, health officials said.

A deadly outbreak of legionnaires is linked to the contaminated Napa Co. hotel cooling tower in Napa, California on August 4, 2022.


A spokesperson for Embassy Suites by Hilton Napa Valley told ABC News that the hotel continues to “cooperate fully” with the county’s ongoing investigation.

“We await a full report with test results from the health department, but remain diligent in our commitment to providing a safe and hospitable environment for all,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Consistent with this commitment and after learning of their concerns, we immediately contacted our consultant and water treatment supplier to ensure we were following the guidelines set out by the health department and commenced corrective action. .”

Legionella bacteria thrive in hot water and can become a health concern when it spreads through man-made water systems like cooling towers, hot tubs, decorative fountains, and plumbing systems. People can contract Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in small water droplets containing the bacteria.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include cough, fever, and difficulty breathing. It is not passed from person to person and can be treated with antibiotics when caught early.

People most at risk of getting Legionnaires’ disease, a serious type of pneumonia, include people aged 50 and over, smokers, and people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems.

The person who died in the Napa County outbreak was over 50 and had risk factors for “serious illness”, health officials said.

PHOTO: A deadly Legionnaires' outbreak is linked to the contaminated Napa Co. hotel cooling tower in Napa, Calif., August 4, 2022.

A deadly outbreak of legionnaires is linked to the contaminated Napa Co. hotel cooling tower in Napa, California on August 4, 2022.


“Although Legionnaires’ disease is a rare infection, it reminds us that the bacteria that cause it are common in nature and can be found in man-made water systems,” Relucio said. “This means it’s very important for owners and managers of water systems that can create aerosols to take steps to prevent Legionella from growing and spreading through water systems.”

Health departments reported nearly 10,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the United States in 2018, though the actual number may be 1.8 to 2.7 times higher than reported, the Centers say. for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States. About one in 10 cases is fatal, the CDC said.

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