ASHEVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday released the final report on the public health investigation into the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, sickening several people who attended the NC Mountain State Fair held in September 2019 at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher.
The investigation confirmed the outbreak was likely caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria in aerosolized water from a hot tub display. Health officials said hot tubs have also been linked to other Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks around the world.
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of bacterial pneumonia most often caused when people breathe in aerosolized water (small droplets of water in the air) that contains Legionella bacteria, which can also cause a milder flu-like illness called Pontiac fever, which resolves without treatment.
The first case was identified eight days after the Mountain State Fair ended.
136 cases of Legionnaires’ disease and one case of Pontiac Fever were ultimately confirmed. The victims resided in North Carolina as surrounding states. Ninety-six people were hospitalized and the outbreak claimed four lives.
Officials said the outbreak led to the development and distribution of guidance for vendors and public health practitioners on how to minimize risks at fairs and other temporary events from hot tubs and other displays that aerosolizes water.