1 dead, 12 infected in Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Napa County

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A Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Napa County has killed 1 and infected a dozen people. 

Health officer Dr. Karen Relucio said at least 12 county residents have been diagnosed and hospitalized with the bacterial infection since July 11. 

1 person, who was over 50 and had risk factors for severe disease, had died from the outbreak. 

Legionnaires’ disease is contracted by breathing in aerosolized water containing Legionella bacteria, which can grow in warm water. The aerosolized water can come from cooling towers providing air conditioning to large buildings, hot tubs, cooling misters, decorative fountains, and plumbing systems.

Relucio reveals that a preliminary investigation found high levels of legionella bacteria in a sample taken from a cooling tower at the Embassy Suites Napa Valley hotel in Napa. 

“Our joint investigation team continues to work with Embassy Suites staff to remediate the source of exposure,” Relucio said. “Finding Legionella in one water sample is an important piece of the puzzle, 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.”

The hotel has taken the cooling tower offline, and the investigation continues to identify other sources of the bacteria. 

“Although Legionnaires’ disease is a rare infection, this is a reminder that the bacteria that cause it are common in nature and can be found in man-made water systems,” Relucio went on to say. “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 in water systems.”

Health officials said that anyone living or working in Napa and have acquired flu-like symptoms, cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, should contact their healthcare provider. 

People who are at risk for Legionnaires’ disease include those who are 50 and older, cigarette smokers, people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems. The disease is not spread from person to person and is curable with antibiotics if found early. 

To prevent the spread, residents are encouraged to flush faucets and showerheads that have not been used recently. Devices that use water, like humidifiers, respiratory therapy devices, water heaters, and hot tubs, should be cleaned and disinfected.