Legionnaires lawyer Elliot Olsen has decades of experience guiding clients through the process of filing a Legionnaires lawsuit. If you or a family member were sickened in this East Texas Legionnaires outbreak, you might have cause to file a Legionnaires lawsuit. Please call Elliot at (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.
A Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in East Texas has claimed the life of one victim.
Ruben Gutierrez passed away from complications of the disease. The 69-year-old Flint resident worked daily at the East Texas State Fair (Sept. 20-29 in Tyler), which is ground zero for the outbreak.
Gutierrez was a volunteer at the Smith County Democratic Party’s information booth in the Harvey Convention Center on the fairgrounds. The information booth was stationed near a hot tub display and under an air conditioning vent. Both are possible breeding grounds for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.
All 12 people who took ill – seven were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, and five had symptoms consistent with the disease – all attended the East Texas State Fair. George Roberts, CEO of Northeast Texas Public Health (NET Health), confirmed that Gutierrez was one of the seven people diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: hot tubs again?
If the Legionella source is determined to be the hot tubs display, it would make the East Texas event the second state fair to fall prey to a contaminated hot tub. At North Carolina’s Mountain State Fair in September in Fletcher, a hot tub display was the source of a legionellosis outbreak that infected 142 people – 134 with Legionnaires and eight with Pontiac fever – and resulted in four deaths so far.
(Note: Legionellosis is the collective term for the two diseases caused by Legionella bacteria – Legionnaires’ disease and its much weaker sibling, Pontiac fever, which does not affect the lungs.)
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: testing exhaustive
The Harvey Convention Center had been ruled out as a possible source after initial testing, but its ventilation system has been re-tested.
“We don’t want to leave anything out (as a source to be tested) and are doing our due diligence,” Terrance Ates, a NET Health spokesperson, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “We are testing every potential exposure site. All buildings on the fairgrounds and any other possible water sources, including those possibly generated by food and display vendors.”
The collection of environmental samples has been completed, Ates said, but he did not say when results will be released.
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: Gutierrez readmitted
Gutierrez experienced sepsis and kidney failure, according to his wife, Susan Gutierrez, and that forced him to spend half of October in Tyler’s Christus Trinity Mother France Hospital. Ruben Gutierrez recovered and was released from the hospital in mid-October but then suffered setbacks and was readmitted before passing away last week.
Susan Gutierrez said she was told the source of her husband’s illness was unknown. “They said it was something in the fair, but he was there every day,” she said. “It could have been the A/C; it could have been the hot tubs or (something else).”
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: oversight necessary
Hot tubs (or spas) that are not cleaned and disinfected often enough can become contaminated with Legionella bacteria, which is naturally found in water. A person can become infected by inhaling steam or mist from a contaminated hot tub.
Because high water temperatures make it hard to maintain the disinfectant levels needed to kill Legionella, ensuring that the hot tub has the right disinfectant and pH levels is essential, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Other human-made environments in which Legionella can be found include:
- water systems of large buildings (hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, etc.)
- air-conditioning system cooling towers
- large plumbing systems
- hot-water heaters and tanks
- bathroom showers and faucets
- swimming pools
- physical-therapy equipment
- mist machines and hand-held sprayers
- decorative fountains.
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: numerous symptoms
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection that the CDC reports is contracted by an estimated 25,000 Americans yearly. Because of its nonspecific symptoms, however, only 5,000 cases are reported.
Symptoms usually develop two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella, and they mimic those of pneumonia and even flu. Along with coughing, fever and chills, and shortness of breath (dyspnea), other symptoms generally include:
- severe headaches
- muscle aches
- chest pains (called pleurisy or pleuritis)
- gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- confusion and other mental changes.
East Texas Legionnaires outbreak: if ill, seek help
If you attended or worked at the East Texas State Fair and are exhibiting Legionnaires’ disease symptoms, you should seek care from your health-care provider.
The disease is not contagious – it cannot be passed from person to person – and is treatable with antibiotics if diagnosed early enough. If that does not occur, though, it can lead to severe complications, such as those experienced by Ruben Gutierrez: sepsis and kidney failure.
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