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May 29, 2024

Legionella Bacteria in NH Resort Hot Tub Believed to Have Caused Sickness and Death

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Jan 20, 2024

Health officials believe a hot tub at a New Hampshire resort was likely the source of Legionnaires’ disease exposure that caused one woman to die and left another person sick.

Woman Dies, Another Sickened After Using Resort Hot Tub

A hot tub at the Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa in Whitefield, New Hampshire is the suspected origin of Legionella bacteria that caused a woman from Massachusetts to die and sickened another person earlier this month, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The DHHS said the two individuals who got sick were believed to have been exposed to the bacteria between December 26, 2023 and January 3, 2024 while using the hot tub. The woman who died was older and had risk factors that made her more prone to getting sick from the exposure. The other individual was hospitalized for the illness.

“After a thorough epidemiological and environmental investigation, we believe that the likely source of exposure was the hot tub at the resort,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said.

No other guests at the resort have reported illnesses so far. The hot tub has been closed for remediation since January 3.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by Legionella bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Legionnaires’ disease cases are reported each year in the United States.

How Legionella Bacteria Are Spread

Legionella bacteria are naturally found in freshwater environments like lakes and streams. The bacteria can become a health concern when they grow and spread in human-made water systems like hot tubs, hot water tanks, cooling towers of air conditioning systems, decorative fountains, and large plumbing systems.

People can get Legionnaires’ when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that are contaminated with the bacteria. The bacteria cannot spread person-to-person.

Those at increased risk include:

  • Adults 50 years or older
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems
  • People with cancer or taking chemotherapy

Symptoms and Treatment

It takes between 2 to 10 days after exposure to Legionella bacteria for symptoms to develop. Early signs include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches

Later symptoms can worsen to include:

  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Legionnaires’ disease requires antibiotic treatment. Severe infections may require care in intensive care units of hospitals, and even with treatment, some cases can be fatal.

Resort Hot Tub Identified as Likely Source

State health officials conducted an on-site inspection of the resort along with environmental testing. Although Legionella bacteria was not detected in the hot tub water samples, the DHHS said that did not rule it out as the likely origin based on the epidemiological and sequence of events.

“The negative results do not rule out the hot tub as the source since Legionella bacteria are known to be transient in nature and can be difficult to detect in water samples,” Dr. Chan said.

The Mountain View Grand Resort has been fully cooperating with public health officials in the investigation and response efforts.

Prevention and Control Recommendations

In their report, the DHHS provided a series of recommendations to the resort for proper maintenance and cleaning procedures to prevent and control Legionnaires’ disease moving forward:

For Hot Tubs:

  • Maintain water chemistry within recommended ranges for pH, disinfectant concentration, and temperature
  • Flush, clean, and disinfect hot tubs on a regular basis
  • Properly design and maintain equipment like filters, heating equipment, and disinfection systems

For Plumbing Systems:

  • Remove dead ends and areas where water can stagnate
  • Ensure water temperature does not drop below 131°F while water circulates
  • Insulate pipes throughout the system

General Facility Operations and Maintenance:

  • Develop a comprehensive water management program for controlling Legionella and other pathogens
  • Document all procedures, maintenance logs, test results
  • Ensure staff are properly trained

The state health officials noted that Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks associated with hot tubs are well documented, especially in resort and hotel settings. Following disinfection and water management guidance is critical.

Next Steps in the Investigation

The Mountain View Grand Resort must submit a remediation plan to the state health department before reopening the hot tub to guests. The plan should detail cleaning and treatment procedures, steps to optimize water circulation, and plans for continued monitoring and maintenance.

According to public health officials, no further cases of Legionnaires’ disease associated with this resort have been reported since the hot tub was closed in early January. They will continue working alongside the Mountain View Grand Resort and conduct additional testing to ensure the safety of guests moving forward.

Officials said the two individuals affected are either recovering or have recovered. State epidemiologists also follow up directly with anyone diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease to gather more details about their exposures in the days and weeks before getting sick to hone in on common sources.

While quite rare, outbreaks like this shed light on the critical need for businesses and operators of hot tubs, decorative fountains, and other water systems to have rigorous Legionella prevention protocols and response plans when contamination does occur. State regulations are also evolving to further reduce risks.

This story will be updated if health officials release any new findings from the ongoing investigation and testing at the resort.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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