Since mid-July, public health officials said Wednesday that a Legionnaires' disease outbreak has caused the death of one individual and hospitalized several others in Napa Valley, California.
Health officials initially believed a hotel cooling tower for Embassy Suites was the cause of the outbreak after high levels of Legionella bacteria were found in the water, but none of the victims had stayed in the building. Regardless, health officials said the tower had been shut down, and investigators are working with the hotel's staff to determine the source of the bacteria, according to CBS News.
Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia with bacteria that is commonly found in warm water. The disease was first discovered during an outbreak at a Philadelphia convention in 1976.
Napa Valley health officer Dr. Karen Relucio said, "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." So far, a dozen county residents have been hospitalized with the disease, and one individual over the age of 50 with reportedly high-risk factors has died.
"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 added. "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."
Legionnaires' disease is not contagious, and recovery is possible with antibiotics; however, the disease can be fatal for those in certain risk categories. Individuals are infected with the disease, usually after breathing in contaminated water vapor.
Symptoms may include fever, chills, and muscle aches. The disease typically lasts between two and five days and may prove fatal due to respiratory and kidney failure.
"Outbreaks are commonly associated with buildings or structures that have complex water systems, like hotels and resorts, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and cruise ships," according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The most likely sources of infection include water used for showering, hot tubs, decorative fountains, and cooling towers."