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NC Report: Hot Tub Water Caused Legionnaire's Outbreak

Legionella pneumophila bacteria at a very high magnification of 90,000X.
CDC/Dr. Francis Chandler

Hot tub water that sprayed into the air likely caused an outbreak of Legionnaire's disease that killed four people in North Carolina last year, state health officials said Thursday.

The state Department of Health and Human Services released its final report on the outbreak, which infected people who attended a state fair in western North Carolina. The final report tallied 136 cases of Legionnaire's disease and one case of Pontiac fever in residents of multiple states, officials said.

Ninety-six people were hospitalized.

People attending the North Carolina Mountain State Fair, held in September in Fletcher, were likely exposed to the bacteria in aerosolized water from hot tubs on display at the fair, the report said. Hot tubs have been linked to outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease nationally and internationally, state health officials said in a news release.

In response to this outbreak, the state Division of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control have distributed guidance for vendors and others on how to minimize risks from hot tubs and other display equipment that aerosolizes water, the news release said.

Legionnaire's disease is form of bacterial pneumonia, or lung infection. It can be treated with antibiotics. The bacteria also can cause a milder flu-like illness called Pontiac fever, which doesn't require treatment.

The final report confirms the cause that was included in an interim report released in October.

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