New Hampshire and federal health officials are investigating after a dozen people developed Legionnaires’ disease and one person died of complications related to the illness.
The people infected in the Hampton area likely contracted the disease between early June and mid-August, according to a statement Thursday from the state’s Division of Public Health Services.
State health officials and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts are trying to identify a source of the bacteria and any additional cases of the disease, which is a bacterial pneumonia.
“We are working hard to identify the exact source of these infections,” Lisa Morris, director of the state’s Division of Public Health Services, said in the statement. “Even though the information is preliminary, we want to allow the public to make informed decisions about visiting the area and their activities in the area.”
Most of the confirmed cases involved people who stayed or live in the Ashworth Avenue area in Hampton between Island Path and M Street, according to Thursday’s statement.
The state has closed the hot tub spas at the Sands Hotel and the Harris Sea Ranch Motel as a “precautionary measure.” Both establishments remain open.
Hot tub spas are “a known source of the bacteria that causes” Legionnaires’, according to the statement.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said authorities are “working cooperatively and diligently to address this situation and help mitigate any additional health risks.”
“Through regular communication and transparency, we will ensure members of the public have the most up to date information so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families,” he said in the statement.
Most people who are exposed to Legionella bacteria will not get sick, but it can cause severe illness and sometimes death, according to the statement. The disease is acquired by breathing in small drops of water that have the Legionella bacteria.
Legionnaires’ disease cannot be passed from person to person, and it can’t be caught by drinking or coming into physical contact with the water that contains the bacteria, according to the statement.
As with other types of pneumonia, symptoms for Legionnaires’ include coughing, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches. Symptoms typically appear between two and 10 days after someone is exposed to the bacteria, according to the statement.
State health officials said “the current overall health risk to the community is low.”
Those at increased risk of becoming infected include people with weakened immune systems, people who take drugs that can weaken their immune systems, people with chronic lung disease, current or former smokers, people with underlying illnesses like diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure, and people who are over 50, according to the statement.