Outbreak of rare Bay Area Legionnaires leaves 1 dead, 12 sick

A rare outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease in the North Bay has resulted in one death and numerous hospitalizations, Napa County health officials said Tuesday.

Since July 11, 12 people in the province have become “ill and hospitalized” with the deadly form of pneumonia, often linked to a contamination of a hot water supply.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of this person and our thoughts and condolences go out to the family. We share our concern for everyone affected by this outbreak,” said Dr. Karen Relucio, the Napa County public health officer in a statement.

The location of the outbreak is still unclear. The identity of the deceased has also not been released. SFGATE contacted the county for more information, but did not hear back at the time of publication.

This is Napa County’s first fatality from the disease in several years, the county said.

In May, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease was linked to a Hilton luxury hotel in Waikiki, Hawaii. No deaths were reported in that outbreak.

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria. The disease is named after the first identified outbreak, in 1976 at the American Legion’s annual three-day convention at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.

The bacteria can contaminate water tanks, shower heads and hot tubs and is spread by inhaling mist containing the bacteria. There is no vaccine for Legionnaires’ disease – cases are usually treated with antibiotics. Flu-like symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches and high fever.

According to the CDC, one in 10 people who become ill with Legionnaires’ Disease die from a high fever and a buildup of fluid in the lungs that can make it difficult to breathe.

While there are an estimated 10,000 cases of Legionnaires’ Disease each year in the U.S., outbreaks occur only “sporadically” and are under investigation to identify the source, which is often the complex water system of a large building, the CDC says.

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