Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
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Elliot Olsen has decades of experience representing people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease, and he has regained millions of dollars for them. If you or a family member have contracted Legionnaires’ disease in Hampton, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.
The Legionnaires’ disease cluster in Hampton, NH, has turned deadly as one senior has passed away from complications of the severe-type of bacterial pneumonia. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) announced seven new cases, raising the count to 12.
“It is likely there will be additional cases to report in the next few days,” said Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist, at a news conference held at the Hampton Police Department.
Eleven of the 12 victims were visitors to Hampton Beach, a village district, census-designated place, and beach resort in the town of Hampton. All 12 took ill between late July and mid-August. The genders, ages, and residences of those sickened were not released.
“Federal, state and local authorities are working cooperatively and diligently to address this situation and help mitigate any additional health risks,” New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu was quoted in a DPHS statement. “Through regular communication and transparency, we will ensure members of the public have the most up to date information so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”
Hot tub spas probable source
The likely source is hot tub spas at the Sands Resort and the Harris Sea Ranch Motel along Ashworth Avenue, officials said. The hot tub spas were closed, and officials said they no longer present a risk to the public. Both hotels remained open Thursday.
Tom Saab, co-owner of the Sands Resort, told Boston 25 News the hotel’s hot tub is drained and cleaned several times each week.
“They asked as a courtesy if we could shut down our hot tub, which is a very small hot tub (that) has been here for 25 years, and we’ve never had a problem whatsoever,” Saab said. “It’s immaculate. It has all brand-new filters, new pump.”
Officials said they are still trying to pinpoint the source of the Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease. Initially, industrial-sized air conditioning units were suspected.
A drone was used to investigate the area for other possible public sources of contamination, such as cooling towers.
“We are continuing to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate other potential sources of exposure in the community, and so far, we have not identified any other potential common sources in this area,” Chan told WMUR News 9. “We believe that the overall current health risk in the community is low.”
The area of concern
Officials said they have narrowed the infectious field to an area of Ashworth Avenue between Island Path and M Street in the Hampton Beach area, which is a popular tourist destination and the busiest beach community in the state.
Officials stressed that Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious and spread from person to person. The DPHS, however, is recommending that anybody at increased risk for the disease should “consider postponing their visit to the area” in an abundance of caution.
If you’re sick, get checked
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick, but it can cause a potentially severe bacterial pneumonia and even result in death, if not identified and treated early.
Legionnaires’ disease is similar to other types of pneumonia. Symptoms can also resemble those of flu, and include:
- shortness of breath
- muscle aches
- gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
“We’re interviewing people who have become infected, and we encourage anyone who may have been diagnosed with Legionella since visiting this area to please contact us,” Beth Daly, Bureau of Infectious Disease Control chief, told New England Cable News (NECN.com).
Anyone with information or questions about the outbreak is asked to call the DPHS Inquiry Line at 603-271-9461. The line is staffed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. eastern time, including weekends.
“Legionella is a serious infection,” DPHS director Lisa Morris said in a statement. “We want to make sure the public is aware of the potential risk of this disease so that each person can make a decision for themselves about visiting the area in the best interest of their health.”
Cluster, not an outbreak
The illnesses are categorized as a “cluster” and not an “outbreak” because the cases are linked in space and time but there is no single source. If the health department can pinpoint a definitive source – such as a cooling tower or water system responsible for spreading the Legionella – as the cause for all the illnesses, officials would then recategorize this event as an “outbreak.”
In the past five years, New Hampshire has averaged 32 Legionnaires’ disease cases per year.
Legionnaires: What you need to know
Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia (lung infection). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur in the U.S. annually. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.
Ten percent of those who become infected with Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.
Who is most susceptible to infection?
Anyone can become ill from Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, but those most at risk for infection include:
- people 50 years of age or older
- smokers, current and former
- heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
- people with chronic lung disease
- people with compromised immune systems
- recipients of organ transplants
- individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).
What could be causing the cluster?
Legionella are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments.
Outbreaks have been linked to a number of sources, such as:
- the cooling towers of air conditioning systems
- water systems, such as those used in hotels, hospitals, and nursing homes
- large plumbing systems
- hot-water tanks and heaters
- hot tubs and whirlpools
- swimming pools
- showers and faucets
- equipment used in physical therapy
- mist machines and hand-held sprayers
- decorative fountains.