Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
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Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires in West Virginia, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

An employee at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in New Cumberland, West Virginia, was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, prompting officials to suspend live racing at the thoroughbred racetrack for at least the next two weeks, according to The Daily Racing Form (DRF).

More cases are possible. The Hancock County Health Department (HCHD) has received multiple calls from employees of the track about a health problem, according to Jackie L. Huff, HCHD administrator. Mountaineer officials, however, have yet to respond to inquiries from the department.

“We’re receiving calls from family members and people who work at the track about concerns there,” Huff said. “We are investigating.”

Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of lung infection caused by Legionella bacteria. Legionella are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor.

Track vague about closure
Track officials distributed an announcement that live racing would be suspended until Nov. 7 to make “some improvements at our racetrack,” but did not release what improvements are scheduled.

Officials at Mountaineer and its parent company, El Dorado Resorts, did not respond to the DRF’s phone and email messages.

The track’s grandstand and clubhouse were closed Monday, according to Jana Tetrault, executive director of the Mountaineer Park Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (MPHBPA). The track is maintaining the same training hours, and horsemen are free to use the training track and backside (i.e. stable area).

“There are crews over there working and cleaning,” Tetrault said. “We’ve asked them to keep us informed about what the situation is.”

She also noted that horsemen had not been notified about the reason behind the suspension.

Joe Moore, executive director of the West Virginia Racing Commission (WVRC), said he has been informed about the suspension and heard rumors about the health problems, but those rumors had not been confirmed.

The notice distributed by the track noted that the casino and hotel would remain open during the suspension of live racing. Tetrault stated the track would attempt to add racing dates to the calendar to make up for the lost days, which would need to be approved by the WVRC.

Mountaineer offers 123 live racing days; 122 of those are scheduled for Sunday through Wednesday evenings through Nov. 28. The track’s only Saturday afternoon of racing was held Aug. 4, featuring a seven-race stakes schedule including the track’s richest race: the $500,000 West Virginia Derby.

Recent inspection results
The HCHD website publishes food-establishment inspection results in an effort to increase awareness and improve services for Hancock County. Included on the website were results for inspection of the Mountaineer Park jockey’s hot tub room, which included the following three non-critical violations Oct. 16 (inspections take place a minimum of twice a year):

  • Men’s steam room: ceiling vent cover missing; light shield dirty & taped to ceiling; missing wall tiles; walls moldy; wooden seats splitting and splintered. (Wood is not impermeable nor easily cleanable.)
  • Men’s locker room: mold on ceilings of some showers; one broken ceiling tile.
  • Men’s sauna: baseboard fell off wall.

A follow-up visit for the same day at noon was listed and denoted: “No chlorine at time of first visit. Returned at noon to check. Hot tub re-opened.” No re-inspection was required, according to the inspection report.

Mold in the steam room and locker room also were observed during visits Oct. 17, 2017, and April 24, 2018, but no re-inspection was required after either report.

Herbie Rivera, a regional manager who represents Mountaineer riders on behalf of The Jockeys’ Guild, told that he had lodged a complaint this year with track management regarding the condition of the jockeys’ facilities.

“A couple months ago, we were having trouble with the hot box and the sauna,” Rivera said. “I went in there, and I was concerned with cleaning issues and some kind of mold building up in there. It was nasty. I’m not an expert, but you can tell that it was dirty and that it was not maintained with the consistency that it is supposed to be. We brought it to management’s attention and we complained about it. They said they were going to take care of it.”

Visited or work at Mountaineer and feeling ill?
If you are an employee at Mountaineer Park, visited the backside, clubhouse, grandstand, or jockeys’ area and are feeling pneumonia- or flu-like symptoms, you should see your health-care provider out of an abundance of caution. Those symptoms include:

  • chills
  • fever (potentially 104 degrees or higher)
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and blood
  • diarrhea, nausea and vomiting (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • shortness of breath.

Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart.

Pontiac fever
A mild form of Legionnaires’ disease — known as Pontiac fever — may produce signs and symptoms including a fever, chills, headaches and muscle pains. Pontiac fever, however, doesn’t infect the lungs, and symptoms usually clear within two to five days.