One person died and 11 others were sickened by Legionnaires’ disease in California’s Napa County, health officials said, including three people still hospitalized with the rare disease.
Legionella bacteria that cause it have been found in the cooling tower of the Embassy Suites Napa Valley in the County Health Department, City of Napa. ToldBut an investigation is on and other sources are being tested.
Napa County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Relucio said at a news conference Wednesday that none of the 12 people who became ill in the outbreak that began on July 11 stayed at the hotel and were not employees.
All 12 are residents of Napa County and not tourists, she said, and in many cases they live in the area where the hotel is.
Three people remained hospitalized on Wednesday, and one of those patients was on a ventilator, Relucio said. The other eight recovered.
Legionella bacteria live in water, but can spread when that water is aerosolized.
“If a cooling tower is contaminated with bacteria, it can spread for a mile,” Relucio said.
The health department said the cooling tower had been taken offline, “which minimizes any ongoing risks to public health.”
In an outbreak area, it is also common to find more than one source, according to the department.
Legionnaires’ disease causes severe pneumonia. The person who died was over 50 years of age and described as having risk factors for serious illness.
Relucio said that the people who have got this disease are between 58 and 80 years old.
“One thing we notice is that a lot of them have underlying medical conditions,” he said, “such as lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease or other chronic diseases.”
Embassy Suites owner Hilton did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday night.
Relucio said health officials have not identified any hotel guests or staff who have contracted the disease – although the incubation period could be 14 days.
Not all people exposed to the bacteria get the disease, and most healthy people do not get the disease, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
People 50 and older, those who are immunocompromised, and current or former smokers or people with lung conditions are at increased risk.
The bacteria is naturally present in freshwater bodies such as lakes, but its main danger to people is when it grows and spreads to man-made building water systems, according to the agency.
Legionnaires’ disease is rare, Relucio said. Napa County typically sees zero to two cases of Legionella a year.
The health department said 12 cases were reported to health officials from July 11 to July 27. They live in downtown Napa, but one lives in Calistoga but had a history of visiting the city, Relucio said.