California Legionnaires’ disease outbreak: 1 dead after 12 hospitalized in Napa County

NAPA, Calif. — A recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in California’s Napa County left a dozen residents hospitalized, including one who later died, authorities said.

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In a Wednesday news release, county officials said 12 hospitalizations have occurred since July 11. Of those cases, one person died and three others remain in the hospital.

Legionella bacteria, which grows in warm water, causes Legionnaires’ disease, The Associated Press reported. People can become infected with the illness – a type of pneumonia that isn’t contagious – by breathing in water vapor that contains Legionella. Legionnaires’ patients may develop a cough, shortness of breath, a fever, muscle aches and headaches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 1 in every 10 cases of the rare disease, which can be treated using antibiotics, results in death, the CDC said. Patients with a higher risk of complications include people age 50 or older, smokers and those with chronic lung disease, compromised immune systems, cancer or underlying conditions, according to the agency.

The person who died in the Napa outbreak was older than 50 and had other risk factors for complications, the county said.

Local, state and federal officials are working to identify the source of the outbreak. After testing “human-made water sources” in the area, authorities found high Legionella levels in the Embassy Suites Napa Valley cooling tower; however, none of the patients visited the hotel, the county said.

“Our joint investigation team continues to work with Embassy Suites staff to remediate the source of exposure,” Dr. Karen Relucio, Napa County health officer, said in a statement. “Finding Legionella in one water sample is an important piece of the puzzle, but we must continue to investigate other cooling towers and water sources in the outbreak area, as it is common to find more than one source.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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