1 dead in a legionellosis epidemic in California

NAPA, Calif. (AP) — An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in California’s wine country has caused one death and nearly a dozen hospitalizations since mid-July, and public health officials have found a possible source of the bacteria that causes the disease, authorities said Wednesday.

High levels of Legionella bacteria were found in a water sample taken from a cooling tower at the Embassy Suites Napa Valley, although none of those who were ill had visited or stayed at the hotel, according to a release from Napa County.

“The cooling tower has since been taken offline, mitigating any continued risk to public health,” the statement said.


County and state public health investigators worked with hotel staff to “address the source of exposure,” but “we must continue to investigate other cooling towers and sources of water in the hatching area, as it is common to find more than one source”. County health officer Dr. Karen Relucio said in the statement.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria that thrives in hot water. He was named for the outbreak where he was first identified, at a 1976 American Legion convention in Philadelphia.

People can contract Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in water vapor containing the bacteria.

“Outbreaks are typically associated with buildings or structures that have complex water systems, such as hotels and resorts, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and cruise ships,” according to the Centers. for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States. “The most likely sources of include water used for showers, hot tubs, decorative fountains and cooling towers.”

The disease is not 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 has died, the county said.

That person was over 50 and had “risk factors for serious illness,” the county said.

“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” and managers of these systems should take steps to prevent the growth and spread of the bacteria, Relucio said.

There were about 10,000 reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the United States each year, but the disease is likely underdiagnosed and the actual annual figure could be much higher, according to the CDC.

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