Napa County authorities are investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that has sickened 12 people, killing one, over the past three weeks.
Severe lung infection is caused by exposure to contaminated water or fog, and most outbreaks are linked to cooling towers, which are part of an air conditioning system that releases fog. Without proper cleaning, cooling towers can create the perfect environment for Legionella bacteria to grow.
Tests have revealed high levels of bacteria in a sample taken from a cooling tower at the Embassy Suites Napa Valley hotel in the city of Napa, public health officials said Wednesday, though other sources for Legionella in the region are possible.
“The cooling tower has since been taken offline, mitigating any continued risk to public health,” officials said.
Of the 12 people sick since July 11, three remained hospitalized, officials said. The deceased was over 50 and had risk factors for serious illness.
None of the patients, who are all residents of Napa County, had stayed at or visited the Embassy Suites Napa Valley, public health officials said.
Public health investigators from Napa County, the California Department of Public Health, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working to identify any additional water sources that may contain the bacteria in dangerous amounts. , officials said.
“Our joint investigation team continues to work with Embassy Suites staff to address the source of exposure,” said Napa County Health Officer Dr. Karen Relucio. “Discovery Legionella in a water sample is an important piece of the puzzle, but we should continue to investigate other cooling towers and water sources in the hatch area, as it is common to find more than one source.
Authorities have warned county residents and people living or working in Napa who experience flu-like symptoms, cough, fever or difficulty breathing to contact their health care provider as soon as possible.
Legionnaires’ disease is contracted by breathing aerosolized water containing the bacteria and is not transmitted from person to person, officials said. It can be treated with an antibiotic when detected early.
In addition to coming from cooling towers, the small water droplets can be produced by hot tubs, cooling misters, decorative fountains and plumbing systems, officials said.
Residents can prevent bacteria from growing in their homes by rinsing faucets and showerheads if they have not been used recently, and by cleaning, disinfecting and maintaining all appliances that use water, have officials said.
Los Angeles Times