The hot tubs at the Gold’s Gym in Kennewick, WA, tested positive for Legionella bacteria, Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD) officials announced.

Testing occurred after two members, both women, were infected with Legionnaires’ disease in July. A third woman took ill after the initial reports. All three have since recovered.

“The only commonality that we were able to identify between the women who got sick was the spa and pool area at Gold’s Gym in Kennewick,” Rick Dawson, BFHD senior manager for surveillance and investigation, said in a statement. “The positive results for Legionella tell us that the spa was the source of the bacteria.”

Health officials required gym management to temporarily close the pool and spa areas during the investigation. (The pool and sauna/steam room have been reopened.) Only the hot tubs will remain off limits until decontamination of the equipment and follow-up testing determines that the bacteria has been eradicated.

Members or visitors to the Kennewick Gold’s Gym who have used the hot tubs and are exhibiting pneumonia- or flu-like symptoms should contact the Health District by calling 509-460-4200. They also should seek immediate medical attention.

Legionnaires’ disease complications can be severe

Legionella bacteria are generally contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which thrive in warm water, are primarily found in human-made environments, such as hot tubs, spas, cooling towers, and air-conditioning systems, to name a few.

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.

Anyone can get the disease, but those at the greatest risk of infection include:

  • people 50 or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with weakened immune systems.

CDC: About 25,000 Legionnaires’ cases yearly

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur in the United States annually.