Western North Carolina & South Carolina Cases Reported
Fletcher, NC – An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease among people who attended the NC Mountain State Fair held Sept. 6–15, at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher, NC.
The report shows 116 laboratory-confirmed Legionnaires’ cases by NC Division of Public Health as of October 1, 2019.
Almost 80 percent of patients diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease are being hospitalized. It has been reported one person has died.
Many of those infected were primarily vendors who had been at the fair all day. The incubation period for Legionella bacteria infection is 2–10 days. So many people sought Emergency Room services that doctors worked overtime. Patients were experiencing symptoms of fever, chills, cough, nausea and upset stomach.
State health officials have not identified the source of the Legionella bacteria. Health officials encourage people to report possible cases to the Division of Public Health by calling: (919) 733-3419.
Investigation of an Outbreak of Legionellosis in Western North Carolina
- On September 23, 2019, the NC Division of Public Health was notified about an increase in the number of Legionnaires’ disease cases in Buncombe and Henderson counties.
- The source of the outbreak is under investigation.
- Many of the cases reported attending the NC Mountain State Fair, held September 6-15, 2019 in Fletcher, NC.
- As a precaution, anyone who attended the NC Mountain State Fair and is experiencing cough, fever or shortness of breath is advised to call their healthcare provider right away and talk to them about Legionnaires’ disease. See the provider memo.
- Case finding is ongoing, and additional cases have been reported
- Case count as of October 1, 2019:
Health Officials Continue Investigation of Significant Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak in Western NC
“Legionnaires’ disease is a very serious illness, but it can be treated with antibiotics,” said Dr. Zack Moore, State Epidemiologist with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. “Our sympathies are with the loved ones of the person who passed away and with everyone who has been affected by this outbreak.”
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of bacterial pneumonia (lung infection). A person can develop Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in mist or accidentally breathe water into the lungs that contains Legionella bacteria. Symptoms typically begin 2 to 10 days after exposure and can include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches and headaches. Anyone who attended the fair and has these symptoms should see a doctor right away and talk with them about the possibility of Legionnaires’ disease.
Health officials have visited the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center and determined that there are not currently any significant sources for aerosolized water — small droplets such as mists or vapors that could pose a risk if contaminated with Legionella bacteria and inhaled into the lungs. Investigations are ongoing into other possible sources of aerosolized water that were present at the fair.
Health officials are also gathering information about possible sources of exposure to Legionella bacteria at the fair from everyone who has been sick with Legionnaires’ disease.
“We will be reaching out by email to gather similar information from everyone who purchased fair tickets online,” said Dr. Moore. “Comparing information from people who got sick and people who did not is an important way for us to find out how people were exposed to Legionella. This will also help us understand how to prevent similar outbreaks in the future.”
For additional information or to report possible cases of Legionnaires’ disease, please call the Division of Public Health at (919) 733-3419 or contact your local health department. A directory can be found at: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/county-health-departments.
Updated case counts and information about the outbreak are available: https://epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/cd/legionellosis/outbreak.html.
More information about Legionella bacteria and Legionnaires’ disease can also be found on the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/legionella/index.html and on the DPH website at https://epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/cd/diseases/legionellosis.html.