The number of Legionnaires’ cases in North Carolina has risen to at least 80, including one person who died, health officials say. Fifty-five people have been hospitalized as a result of the outbreak, which appears to be linked to the North Carolina Mountain State Fair near Asheville earlier this month, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. The number of people sickened with the lung disease is expected to grow, health officials say.
Most of the confirmed cases have been in Western North Carolina, particularly in Bumcombe and Henderson counties, according to the state health department. Five of the confirmed cases were in South Carolina, the state said. “We don’t yet know whether people might have been exposed to Legionella bacteria at the NC Mountain State Fair,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore said in a statement last week. “As a precaution, we are recommending that anyone who went to the fair and has symptoms of pneumonia, like cough, fever or shortness of breath, see a doctor right away and talk with them about Legionnaires’ disease,” Moore said.
Smokers and people with existing lung conditions are most at risk from Legionnaires’ disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Legionnaires’ is spread when water containing the harmful bacteria gets into someone’s lungs, normally by inhaling the mist or aspirating, the CDC said. Those with the infection can’t spread it to others. The Legionella bacteria “can also cause a milder flu-like illness called Pontiac fever, which resolves without treatment,” state health officials said.