The Northeast Texas Health District (NET Health) confirmed an eighth case of Legionnaires’ disease linked to September’s East Texas State Fair.
The new case was one of five being monitored from the East Texas State Fair, which was Sept. 20-29 in Tyler. The other four cases have been cleared.
One person has died in the outbreak. No information was released about the most recent victim.
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: Focus on Harvey Convention Center
The Harvey Convention Center is once again being considered as the possible source for the Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease. The convention center initially was ruled out after testing was negative for Legionella.
The victim who died, however, had volunteered at an information booth in the convention center, and the investigation’s spotlight returned to the building.
NET Health retested the facility and sent environmental samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta for testing. Results are pending.
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: Legionella source being sought
Legionella bacteria are naturally found in water, and all possible sources inside the Harvey Convention Center are being reinvestigated: the ventilation system, potable water sources, humidifiers, and vendors who were stationed in the building during the fair.
One vendor under scrutiny is a hot tub vendor who was located near the information booth.
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: New illnesses are unlikely
NET Health said there is no risk to attendees of future events at Harvey Convention Center or the surrounding area.
“NET Health has identified no evidence of any public health risk that would interrupt current or future events from occurring at Harvey Hall and its neighboring properties,” a statement read. “Attendance at previous, upcoming or future events at Harvey Hall do not mean that a person has contracted or will contract the Legionella bacteria.”
The statement reiterated that NET Health is continuing to communicate with vendors who were in Harvey Convention Center, as well as attendees who were close to the eight victims.
Terrence Ates, public information officer for NET Health, said the department is committed to “definitively identifying the exact source of our local Legionella cases, yet we ask everyone to exercise patience with the scientific process of testing and confirming the exact source of contamination.”
Testing for the potability and safety of public water supplies and distribution systems is required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and performed by the local health department.
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: If you’re feeling sick, seek help
If you attended or worked at the East Texas State Fair and exhibited Legionnaires’ disease symptoms (see below), NET Health urges you to contact your health-care provider.
Additionally, if you have questions about Legionnaires’ disease, call NET Health’s Disease Surveillance Division at (903) 595-1350.
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: Disease symptoms are numerous
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection that is contracted by an estimated 25,000 Americans yearly, according to the CDC. Because of its nonspecific symptoms, however, only 5,000 cases are reported.
Symptoms – which usually develop two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella – mimic those of pneumonia and even common flu. Along with cough, fever, chills, and shortness of breath (dyspnea), other symptoms include:
- severe headaches
- muscle aches
- chest pains (called pleurisy or pleuritis)
- gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting
- confusion and other mental changes.
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: NC outbreak linked to hot tubs
A hot tub display at September’s Mountain State Fair was the source of a legionellosis outbreak in western North Carolina in which four people died and 139 were sickened – 134 with Legionnaires’ disease and five with Pontiac fever, the weaker of the two legionellosis diseases.
Hot tubs and spas that are not cleaned and disinfected often enough can become contaminated with Legionella, and one can become infected by inhaling steam or mist from a contaminated hot tub.
Because high water temperatures make it hard to maintain disinfectant levels necessary to kill germs like Legionella, making sure a hot tub has the right disinfectant and pH levels is essential.
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