8 de ago. de 2014

Visiting athletes, parents sickened by Legionella bacteria in Elmore Co.

When calls started coming in to the Alabama Department of Public Health from concerned parents who reported illnesses in adults and children after a local softball tournament, the state launched an investigation into the outbreak. 
The group of more than 40 people were in the Elmore County area the second weekend in July and 14 people got sick, experiencing varying symptoms- from fever, cough and congestion to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

In clinical tests, three people tested positive for Legionella, a bacteria found naturally in the environment, usually in water. 

Legionella is a bacteria that can cause a form of pneumonia called legionellosis, or Legionaire's disease.
Most people are exposed to legionella regularly and usually don't get legionellosis, but people with weak immune systems are typically more susceptible to the disease. 
Most people get infected by inhaling the bacteria. It can't be transferred by person to person contact.
"It can be found in the water in systems like swimming pools, hot tubs, cooling towers, fountains, especially the ornamental fountains that spray water. It can even be associated with people doing stuff in their yards with hoses and sprinklers," explained Dr. Mary McIntyre, State Epidemiologist.

The state health department is still working to pinpoint exactly where the bacteria came from. Officials say the common link between the people who tested positive for Legionella is a hotel in Elmore County.

While they couldn't reveal the name of the hotel at this point in their investigation, they tell 12 News that water samples from the hotel's pool, hot tub and filtration system are being tested as well as samples from the hotel's entire water system and coolant system- what McIntyre referred to as environmental samples.

"There is no definitive link because we do not have positive environmental samples yet. We do have an association with a hotel in the Elmore County area but because there have been no positive environmental samples, there's no way to say that this is actually the cause," she told WSFA.
There are no statewide requirements for specific testing when it comes to public pools and only eight counties in Alabama have local pool regulations. 
"We know if we keep the chlorine levels at a certain level, we can keep the micro-organisms down to a certain level and the recirculation plays into that because then you get even distribution with the sanitation with the chemicals so it's all working together," said Mark Sestak, Alabama Department of Public Health.

"Even if there is proper maintenance, issues can occur if the system is overburdened with too many people in the water," Dr. McIntyre added.

Meanwhile, the state continues its Legionella investigation. State health officials say the probe could take months. 

The state health department has not gotten reports of any new cases tied to this outbreak.

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