Initial Legionnaires’ Disease Cases and Investigation
Health officials have identified a hot tub at the Snds Resort in Merrimack, New Hampshire as the likely source of Legionnaires’ disease exposure that killed one person and sickened another last year.
The two victims, who stayed at the resort between late summer and early fall 2022, were later diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease – a serious type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria.
After being notified of the Legionnaires’ cases associated with the resort, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) initiated an investigation at the property.
Discovery of Legionella Bacteria in Hot Tub
Samples taken from the resort’s hot tub tested positive for Legionella bacteria, leading health officials to conclude it was the probable source of exposure:
“After extensive epidemiological and environmental investigations of the resort and testing of both clinical isolates and environmental samples collected during the investigation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that environmental samples from the hot tub were a match to clinical isolates,” the DHHS said.
The health department noted that routine maintenance and disinfection of hot tubs is essential to prevent the growth and spread of Legionella bacteria.
Remediation Efforts and Continued Monitoring
Upon discovery of the bacteria, the infected hot tub was immediately closed down by resort management.
The DHHS indicated that the resort has been working cooperatively with health officials throughout the investigation and has taken appropriate remediation measures.
Although the hot tub will remain closed for the time being, the rest of the resort remains open and officials say there have been no further reports of disease associated with the property.
Health officials say they will continue working with the resort over the coming year to monitor water systems and ensure safety measures are properly implemented.
Background on Legionnaires’ Disease
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of atypical pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. The bacteria thrive in warm water environments like hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, decorative fountains and plumbing systems.
People can contract Legionnaires’ when they inhale small droplets of water containing the bacteria. The disease is not transmitted person-to-person.
Symptoms usually begin 2 to 10 days after exposure and include fever, chills, cough and difficulty breathing. Some people also experience muscle aches, headaches, tiredness, loss of appetite and diarrhea.
Those at highest risk include people over 50, current or former smokers, and those with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases.
If diagnosed early, Legionnaires’ disease can generally be treated successfully with antibiotics. However, the disease can become severe and lead to serious complications like respiratory failure, shock, organ failure or even death if not treated promptly.
Outlook and Preventative Measures
While the hot tub source in this outbreak has now been remediated, the situation serves as an important reminder for both hotels and travelers to remain vigilant about Legionella risks.
Hotels and resorts with aquatic facilities are advised to have water management plans in place to limit Legionella growth. This includes regularly cleaning and maintaining hot tubs, pools, decorative fountains and other water systems.
Likewise, travelers should take precautions when using hotel hot tubs and be aware of Legionnaires’ symptoms if they start to feel ill after returning from a trip.
Ongoing cooperation between public health agencies and the hospitality industry to detect and mitigate Legionella hazards will also help prevent future outbreaks that put hotel guests and employees at risk.
Though the Snds Resort outbreak appears to be under control, health officials say they will continue working to keep the public safe from similar occurrences in New Hampshire and beyond.
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