North Dakota hotel spa source of Legionnaire's disease

North Dakota hotel spa source of Legionnaire's disease

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The North Dakota Department of Health and Fargo Cass Public Health are responding to reports of three people with Legionnaires’ disease associated with a hotel water park in Casselton.

Three people diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease were reported to the department between July 2018 and January 2019, and all reported spending some time at the Days Inn of Casselton prior to their illnesses. None of the ill people were overnight guests at the hotel, but all visited the hotel to use the indoor water park. Hotel management has been cooperative during the investigation.

Prior to any remediation, water and sand filter samples were collected from the hotel on Jan. 8-9. One of the samples from the spa filter was found to have Legionella bacteria detected through laboratory testing. Hotel staff further cleaned and disinfected the spa.

After this remediation, a subsequent sample collected Jan. 31 from the spa tested negative. However, Legionella bacteria was detected in a sample collected from the spa filter on Feb. 13. Spas are often associated with Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks due to their temperature and ability to aerosolize Legionella bacteria in small water droplets.

Upon notification of the positive Legionella test this week, the hotel again drained and closed its spa until further notice. The pool remains open. With support from the hotel, Fargo Cass Public Health will continue to work with the facility.

“If you spent time at the hotel, especially in the water park area, between Feb. 7 and 21 and are ill with undiagnosed pneumonia or you develop symptoms in the two weeks following your visit, please see a health care provider to be evaluated for possible Legionnaire’s disease,” said Laura Cronquist, epidemiologist with the NDDoH. “There are no recommendations to prevent illness once people have been exposed to Legionella bacteria. Instead, the focus is on rapid diagnosis and treatment if people develop symptoms after a possible exposure.”

Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial pneumonia that can be severe, so prompt diagnosis and antibiotic treatment is important. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, chills, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and coughing. The disease is spread by inhaling the fine spray from water sources containing Legionella bacteria. It is not spread from person to person.

Most people exposed to Legionella bacteria do not develop Legionnaires’ disease. People older than the age of 50, smokers or those with certain medical conditions including weakened immune systems, diabetes, chronic lung disease or other chronic health conditions are at increased risk. 

In 2018, 10 people were reported to have Legionnaires’ disease in North Dakota. Two individuals with Legionnaires’ disease have been reported in 2019.

More information about Legionnaires’ disease is available on the NDDoH website or from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information, contact Laura Cronquist, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701-3282378.

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