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May 26, 2024

Outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease Linked to New Hampshire Resort, 1 Death Reported

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Dec 31, 2023

A deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease has been linked to a resort in northern New Hampshire, resulting in the death of a Massachusetts resident. At least two guests of the Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa in Whitefield, New Hampshire were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ after staying at the resort in late November and early December 2022.

Massachusetts Man Dies After Contracting Legionnaires’ at Resort

On December 29th, 2022, public health officials confirmed that a man from Massachusetts died due to complications from Legionnaires’ disease after a recent stay at the Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa located in Whitefield, New Hampshire.

The man, who has not been publicly identified, was over 50 years old and stayed at the resort in late November. Within 2 weeks of returning home, he developed pneumonia-like symptoms and tested positive for Legionnaires’. His condition deteriorated rapidly, and he passed away this week.

Second Confirmed Case Also Hospitalized

In addition to the man who died, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan confirmed a second case of Legionnaires’ disease in an out-of-state guest who stayed at the resort in early December. That individual was briefly hospitalized but has since recovered.

Dr. Chan said test results confirmed the presence of Legionella bacteria in the resort’s water system. He noted that the two cases are not believed to be connected, as the individuals stayed at the resort at different times. However, the timing and test results strongly suggest the source of infection was the resort’s water system.

Resort Cooperating Fully with Investigation

In a statement, the Mountain View Grand said they are cooperating fully with state health investigators and that guest safety is their top priority. The resort has voluntarily closed until at least January 7th, 2023 to allow for remediation and additional testing.

General manager Dan O’Connell said, “We are deeply saddened to learn about this situation. We are working closely with public health authorities to determine exactly what occurred and ensure it does not happen again.”

The New Hampshire Department of Health has also launched an investigation into the source of the Legionella bacteria at the resort. On December 30th, inspectors collected samples from various locations in the resort’s water distribution system for specialized testing at the state laboratory.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

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

Exposure Sources

The bacteria thrive in warm water environments like hot tubs, cooling towers (air conditioning units), hot water tanks, fountains, and large plumbing systems. People are exposed to the bacteria via inhalation of water droplets or mist that contain the bacteria.

The disease cannot be transmitted person-to-person. Outbreaks are often traced back to a contaminated water source.

At-Risk Groups

Those at highest risk include:

  • Older adults
  • Current or former smokers
  • Those with chronic lung disease or weak immune systems

The case fatality rate is around 10%, and up to 25% for those who contract Legionnaires’ in a healthcare setting.

Symptoms

It takes 2-10 days to develop symptoms after exposure. Early signs include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches

Diagnosis and Treatment

Chest x-rays can detect pneumonia caused by Legionella. Definitive diagnosis requires a urine antigen test or special culture test.

Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics, and most patients improve quickly once treatment begins. However, the disease can be fatal, especially if treatment is delayed.

Hotel Guests at Elevated Risk

Previous Legionnaires’ outbreaks have occurred at hotels, resorts, and cruise ships. Guests of large hotels appear to be at higher risk compared to the general public due to aging plumbing infrastructure.

As water sits stagnant, biofilms can develop within pipes and faucets, allowing rapid growth of Legionella bacteria. Industry experts say that shock disinfection of hotel water systems at least twice per year can help control bacterial growth.

However, routine testing for Legionella is not mandated by most states. Some public health experts argue that large hotels and venues should be required to regularly test their water systems.

Long-Term Impacts Possible for Resort

While the Mountain View Grand Resort has pledged full cooperation, Legionnaires’ outbreaks often lead to lawsuits, steep clean-up costs, and lasting reputational damage.

In 2019, a Legionnaires outbreak at the Atlanta Sheraton resulted in 1 death. The remediation efforts and lawsuit settlement cost the hotel over $10 million according to news reports.

If negligence is proven, the Mountain View Grand and its parent company, Omni Hotels & Resorts, may face legal consequences. Families of those infected typically argue that the companies failed to properly maintain water systems and protect guest safety.

At minimum, the resort will likely invest substantial funds to re-engineer its plumbing infrastructure and implement an ongoing water management plan.
The outbreak also raises questions around the need for increased public health oversight of New Hampshire hotels.

Next Steps in Investigation

In the coming weeks, the New Hampshire Department of Health will continue testing the resort’s water distribution system to identify the exact source of Legionella bacteria. Once the contaminated areas are pinpointed, targeted disinfection using chloride, thermal eradication, or other methods will be warranted.

Health officials will also try to determine if there are additional Legionnaires’ cases linked to the resort by monitoring for new diagnoses and interviewing past guests. Supported by the CDC, they will work to sequence the Legionella strain and understand why this outbreak occurred.

While the Mountain View Grand remains closed over the New Year holiday, the top priority is eradicating Legionella from the water systems before reopening to the public. With ski season underway, the resort cannot afford extended closure, but must take appropriate caution.

This developing story highlights the seriousness of Legionnaires’ disease and the lurking threat of waterborne pathogens. Hotels across New Hampshire will surely take notice, reviewing their own water safety plans.

Public health experts will continue scrutinizing links between Legionella cases as they investigate outbreak sources. Unfortunately additional cases may emerge before the source is controlled at Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa.

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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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