What We Know About The Mountain State Fair Legionnaires' Outbreak

Oct 4, 2019

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that hot tub displays at the Mountain State Fair in Western North Carolina are likely to blame for an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease. Here's what we know so far:

  • 124 cases of Legionnaires' disease and Pontiac fever (a milder form of the infection) have been confirmed in people who attended or worked at the fair; 116 were Legionnaires while nine were Pontiac fever.
  • One person has died from the illness.
  • Because Legionnaires' is not contagious and the disease's incubation period of 2-10 days has now lapsed since the Sept. 15 end of the Fletcher, North Carolina, fair, officials don't expect the number of cases to grow by much.
  • Symptoms of the disease, according to WebMD, often seem like the flu. Headaches, muscle pain, chills and a high fever typically are the first signs of illness. By the second or third day, those infected usually cough and have a hard time breathing. Chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea also can be associated symptoms.
  • The bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease can't be spread directly from one person to another. Instead, they are commonly spread to the lungs through aerosolized water in the form of a mist or vapor.
  • Confirmed cases occurred more often in people who visited the Davis Event Center at the Mountain State Fair. That building had many vendor displays, including hot tubs.
  • Those who were diagnosed with the disease were more likely to have visited the building during the latter half of the fair that ran Sept. 6-15.
  • In addition to finding evidence of the disease in one of two hot tub displays, health investigators found that a sink in the women's restroom also tested positive for Legionella bacteria, WUNC reported.
  • The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has suspended rental of the Davis Event Center "out of an abundance of caution." Additionally, the organization has taken steps to "minimize aerosolization opportunities" on the grounds.
  • Water systems that have been linked to past Legionnaires' disease outbreaks include: hot tubs, hot water tanks and water heaters, large plumbing systems, cooling towers (structures that contain water and a fan as part of centralized air cooling systems for building or industrial processes) and decorative fountains.