Article Comment 

Disease outbreak traced to business


Jason Browne



An outbreak of Legionnaires disease has been investigated at a Starkville business. 


The State Department of Health confirmed an investigation in mid-July identified two cases of the pneumonia-like lung infection in Oktibbeha County. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byars reported the investigation centered around a lone "establishment" but would not identify which business was at the center of the investigation. 


No new cases have been reported since the investigation was completed in July. Kim Roberts, RN, director of infection control at OCH Regional Medical Center, reported two patients were treated for Legionnaires. Six other cases have been reported statewide in 2010. 


Legionella, the bacteria which causes the disease, is a common bacteria present in water and soil, according to Roberts. A person becomes infected with Legionella by breathing airborne droplets from contaminated water sources. 


"Most people would be surprised by how many potential sources of Legionella we encounter in daily life -- at home, work and on vacation," said Roberts. 


The majority of individuals exposed to Legionella experience no symptoms, but those who become infected can experience high fever, chills, coughing and aches for up to two weeks. Individuals with chronic conditions are at higher risk for infection. 


The disease is treated with antibiotics. 


Byars says common sources of Legionnaires outbreaks include cooling towers for air conditioning systems, but it can also spread through potable water systems such as showers and spas. 


Bacteria identified in water sources is treated through remediation, heat and special bactericides. The water source then must undergo testing for the next several months.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment chill commented at 8/11/2010 4:06:00 PM:

The "lone business" is apparently owned by someone that's VERY politically connected....Hmmmm.
I can't imagine the thought process behind shielding a business owner at the expense of the PUBLIC'S health????


Article Comment kat commented at 8/11/2010 5:57:00 PM:

since this is a PUBLIC health issue, I too would like to know the NAME of the place......really CD-this was a waste of space if you aren't going to give FACTS!!!!!!


Article Comment shwilliams commented at 8/11/2010 7:37:00 PM:

You are jeopardizing more people's health by not reporting the source of where the infection orginated. Why report this story if all the facts are not presented. Ths public's health is first priority! Is this the type of reporting people can expect from their city.....I feel safer already. Not!


Article Comment haiku commented at 8/11/2010 8:35:00 PM:

An outbreak of two,
Hurry and stop the presses,
It's time we panic!


Article Comment doj commented at 8/11/2010 8:48:00 PM:

Two cases of Legionnaires is not an epidemic. Disclosure of the source serves no purpose other than cause speculation and panic among the populace. A knee-jerk reaction by the CD in printing this after the fact is, in effect, sensationalism. The source was found and eliminated some weeks ago, why bring it up now? Had it been endemic, the Board of Health would have released warnings long before now.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/12/2010 5:34:00 AM:

"Most people would be surprised by how many potential sources of Legionella we encounter in daily life -- at home, work and on vacation," said Roberts.

Great Einstein, tell me that you know information that might be useful to me in vague terms. Thanky.

I'd like to report several cases of the Halfazz that represent a public hazard by omission. Browne and Roberts seem to be exhibiting symptoms of it.


Article Comment shwilliams commented at 8/12/2010 8:30:00 AM:

Public Health awareness is the first defense. Why report half of the facts. Most people want to know the truth so they can make informed decisions concerning their health and the health of their family. Reporting half the facts is of no benefit to anyone.


Article Comment regina commented at 8/12/2010 8:43:00 AM:

It was alot more than 2 cases.. Only 2 cases were reported by OCH. Alot of the people that got sick were from out of town and went to their doctors after they got home. One elderly couple was in the hospital almost a month. So doj its not an epidemic per se but do we want to go to a business/hotel to eat, sleep, shower, breathe that has reported cases of Legionaires at its establishment? I doubt you would patronize this business knowing this.


Article Comment doj commented at 8/12/2010 9:00:00 AM:

Regina.. I only know what I read in the article. I don't now whether it was a resturant, spa, tanning bed, fountain, or Walmart, two people or fifty. But, I do know how the Health Department handles vectors. My point was that it's a little late to close the barn door weeks after the horse is gone, and panic the populace with something that no longer exists as a danger.


Article Comment starfish2010 commented at 8/12/2010 11:26:00 AM:

I agree that since it happened weeks ago and has now passed that there was no need in reporting this story. However, if you are gonna report it at least have the decency to name the business.


Article Comment doj commented at 8/12/2010 11:36:00 AM:

starfish2010.. What if the business was the OCH Regional Medical Center? Would you want to destroy the public trust in the hospital by naming it as the culprit?


Article Comment kim roberts, rn/bsn commented at 8/12/2010 12:14:00 PM:

This is Kim Roberts (the one quoted in the article). We don't feel there is an ongoing threat to public health or safety at this time. This point should have been emphasized in the article.
The name of the business is a moot point at this time.
Also, Legionnaire's disease is not spread person-to-person. So there is not a risk of being exposed to someone else with the disease. Until official results of testing are available, we do not want to damage the reputation of any local business. The business should not be unfairly blamed for "causing" the infections.
Officials from
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were in Starkville for a full week conducting an investigation into this outbreak. They did exposure follow-ups on individuals from many different states. The exact number of confirmed cases remains to be determined. The CDC is taking this situation very seriously.
Several measures have been put into place to address the potential source of the outbreak. The media will release more details as they are available from the Health Department.
I respect the Commercial Dispatch for not adding to the rumor mill on this one. On matters of public health, it is especially important to remain factual and not report information before it has been investigated and validated.
Anyone with questions about Legionnaire's disease may contact me at OCH Regional Medical Center (662) 615-2820 or [email protected]
Hope this helps!


Article Comment chill commented at 8/12/2010 1:52:00 PM:

replying roberts, rn/bsn....Thanks Ms. Roberts...I feel so much better now that I know the whole truth.(tongue in cheek).

"Until official results of testing are available"...
"name of the business is a moot point".......
" we do not want to damage the reputation of any local business"...
"On matters of public health, it is especially important to remain factual and not report information before it has been investigated and validated"......

HELLO!!!!!! so there are NO official results?? Therefore....the PUBLIC shouldn't know anything until WHO decides??? There are people serving JAIL sentences for doing LESS than endangering the PUBLIC.
I still wonder if this was supposed to have been KEPT QUIET because of "who" is involved....but...oops....the old trusty dispatch rooted out the story....then HALF reported it.


Article Comment i commented at 8/12/2010 2:11:00 PM:

Name the resturant or hide your story!


Article Comment kim roberts, rn/bsn commented at 8/12/2010 3:24:00 PM:

If we tested every school, restaurant, hotel, fountain, hot tub, air
conditioner, and showerhead in Starkville, there would undoubtedly be some that test positive for Legionella bacteria. It's more common than people realize, although usually infected individuals are treated for pneumonia symptoms without specific testing for Legionella. So it's difficult to estimate the actual number of cases (or identify all potential sources) of Legionella in a community.
We are suggesting the public "stay-tuned" for more details on this outbreak in the coming weeks. Sometimes details take time to fully emerge. In this era of immediate gratification, people are not accustomed to waiting for information. Immediate "access" to news
doesn't mean that the facts are instantly available in every situation. It may seem like the media is "holding back," when in fact they're simply trying to avoid inaccurate reporting by waiting until they have more facts to go on.
I can appreciate that from any news source.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/12/2010 3:31:00 PM:

DOJ, the reason it should be public knowledge is so that anyone who might be sick, and had been there, wherever "there" was, could be made aware that they might have been exposed to it so as to avoid spreading it throughout the public instead of thinking they just had "the flu."

But in the South, we're more worried about our image than we are about keeping the public informed.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/12/2010 3:36:00 PM:

So Kim, are you trying to tell us you don't know where it started??

And while we have a sure nuff Health Dept. person on the hook, explain to us how all the fast food places in Columbus, along with a few "sit down eateries" are being allowed to serve cold food that should be hot. I know you have a state mandated minimum temp. but I'm more interested in why it isn't being enforced. Are we waiting for a big ole food poisoning outbreak? And please don't use the tired old "we're understaffed" excuse.


Article Comment shwilliams commented at 8/12/2010 3:45:00 PM:

This business is obviously concerned about a lawsuit. Just like the oil spill, two hundred millions gallons of Corexit in the gulf, and officals say it is safe. Safe until someone dies from this chemical. Again, the public has the right to be informed of a 'potential' health danger. It does not matter that this bacteria is commonly found in various places. The fact remains people became ill.The CDC should have reported the business.


Article Comment doj commented at 8/12/2010 4:24:00 PM:

coltrain, your shift must have ended, or started, whatever. You espouse to be in the medical profession and you come up with stuff like that. You know its been several weeks, the incubation period is 12-14 days before symptoms show up, the CDC has checked it out, it isn't contagious, the hot tub or whatever has been sterilized, tests and cultures have been run, there are apparently no new cases, so why cause panic about something that is over. Who knows, maybe they picked it up from a pond, swimming pool, hot tub or humidifier in Egypt or somwhere, then came home and got in somebody's pool or tub in Starkville before they had symptoms. Why crucify a local business for something that they may not be responsible for. There have been 162 cases reported in the state this year. What did you hear about them? I'd worry more about the greasy spoons you eat in than Legionaires. BTW, Ms. Roberts is a hospital employee, not Health Department.


Article Comment kim roberts, rn/bsn commented at 8/12/2010 4:32:00 PM:

To be clear, I'm not affiliated with the Public Health Department. We work closely together, but I am on the hospital side of the equation.
Someone mentioned food facility inspections, and although not directly related to the subject at hand, here's a link to all the food facility inspections in Mississippi. This is public information, in case anybody is interested.,1911,231,203,html

Keep in mind. You can't get Legionella from another person. You have to be exposed from an environmental source. And right now the potential source of this outbreak has been addressed.
The CDC and health dept. would have issued a public health warning if they felt there was an ongoing threat to public safety.


Article Comment doj commented at 8/12/2010 6:24:00 PM:

Kim, you forgot to mention that less than 5% of those exposed to Legionella ever show symptoms, and I correct my typo. The incubation period is 2-14 days, not 12-14 days. Either way, the period for incubation from this source has long passed.


Article Comment gogetum commented at 8/12/2010 11:23:00 PM:

Why hasn't the health dept closed down the showers at our YMCA? Probably haven't noticed the band aids , etc, deposited in the open liquid soap dispensers . They have tops but usually laying in the floor. I think they should be changed. Shower curtains also are crawling with germs.


Article Comment hm2006 commented at 8/13/2010 8:40:00 AM:

It was a hotel, I know this because I know multiple who were effected personally, until the investigation is complete should not be released to the public but neither should the article about it. I also think this hotel should be closed to the public until further notice and as far as I know, it is still open for business. There has been alot more cases than the 2 at OCH. Since it was a hotel, most effected people were not residents of starkville.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/13/2010 9:21:00 AM:

The point still is, and was, how would someone who is feeling ill know if they were exposed to it or not if everyone is busying themselves with trying to protect the business?

I find something about this area very interesting. Some of you don't care for my comments. That's fine, I don't care for you, period. But you'd rather sit on your bubba-butts jabbing at me than support something such as hot food instead of cold at a fast food place.

And that, Bubba, is why this town is the mess it is. You'll stand for nothing as long as you get to attack the messenger. It's too funny.


Article Comment doj commented at 8/13/2010 9:47:00 AM:

coltrain...the point is, that once symptoms appear, only testing and a doctor's diagnosis would confirm the infection. The patient feels ill with flu like symptoms. Are they going to self diagnose that they have been exposed to L. pneumophila? I really doubt it. As far as the hot food issue, I personally would find some place that served hot food, and eat there, rather than complain that you can't find hot food. And, I sort of like you. You and Sharp Nose Kent give me something to laugh at everyday.


Article Comment kim roberts, rn/bsn commented at 8/13/2010 12:55:00 PM:

roscoe - If you feel that unhealthy conditions exist at ANY food facility in Mississippi, please report it via the link in my previous post. It doesn't do any good to rant about it here. The health dept. website is the proper channel to get the problem addressed.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/14/2010 6:17:00 AM:

Dear, I was born in the food business. Talking to the Health Dept is sorta like talking to you. It gets you nowhere. I've been to the website, and I've been to the eatery where there was a complaint filed against. The complaint was a bad odor. The "inspector" said he found no odor. Case closed!!! It was Barnhills, and in my last trip there it was full of flies, the A/C vents were growing fuzz, and it was about 95 degrees inside meaning the kitchen help are dripping sweat into the food. But Mr. Health Dept. Guy saw nothing, right?

I've seen how these "inspectors" work dear. Most of them are clock riders who are easily led past things they should report.

They are not enforcing food prep laws... period. And I am sure they are well aware of it. It's been going on for decades. What does that tell you?

My stepfather use to laugh about how easy it was to side-track the inspector who showed up at our place. The man was an idiot. Although the guy is long retired now, I'm sure the state, judging by the lack of enforcement, has hired a replacement for him who is just as dedicated.


Article Comment doj commented at 8/14/2010 9:01:00 AM:

coltrain, way back when, in the 1940-1970 era, when people knew how to work for a living, the inspectors were called Sanitarians and were certified. They were required by law and Dr Felix Underwood, Director of the Health Department, to inspect all food preparation establishments at least once a month unannounced. In addition, they monthly checked everything else where people might get a disease from. The public health was foremost in their mind. In the mid 1970's, under new directorship that began to change. More federal regulation and paperwork for more federal dollars, and the inspectors became Environmentalists (whatever that means). Inspection numbers dropped, older folks retired, and newer folks didn't have the dedication or work ethic. It went from being a profession to just a job. Now, from what I have seen, they inspect around every six months or so on a scheduled basis, and most places know when they are coming. They look for the most obvious stuff, and don't dig too deep. I doubt most of them could recognize a grease trap if they saw one, but the old guys used to check them. The old Sanitarians didn't mess around. If you were out of compliance, and therefore a danger to public health, they could and would shut you down until you cleaned your act up, but that was before the department became politicized. That rating card you see displayed doesn't mean much now. I can't say more without exposing who I am, but I am very particular when I eat out. If something doesn't look right, I get up and leave.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/14/2010 11:46:00 AM:

And how does that apply to a bad of whatever handed to you in the drive-thru? Most in EC will give you a bag of cold stuff at 5:30 PM without care. Some will even hand it out the window while looking away from you as if you are a bother to them.

I've been all over the country and have eaten at fast food places simply because that was really the only option available. I didn't see this sort of thing in those places. So what changed? The employees and the owner.

Nuff said.


Article Comment pandakim commented at 8/14/2010 12:55:00 PM:

Why would a person continue to frequent a business after noticing such repulsive conditions/behavior? I would just check that place off my list of dining options and find more suitable fare.


Article Comment doj commented at 8/14/2010 2:39:00 PM:

coltrain, If you can't figure out how it applies, I can be of no help to you. And I sure can't help you with the employees.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 8/15/2010 8:31:00 AM:

Who said I continue to go there? And for your info dude, this stuff is citywide. Which takes us back to the whole Columbus-attitude of "welcome to my store, gimme your money and get out" type of service found here. The better question should be: why wouldn't you speak out about it instead of just tucking your tail like a whipped dog? Lack of backbone?

Right Doj. When all else fails be vague. Why don't you grow you a pair and just say the reason is the same one that explains the bad service you get throughout this city. Employees of bad stock, and administration that rides a clock instead of administrate. Lightening won't hit you Nancy.


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