Disease outbreak traced to business

August 11, 2010 10:02:00 AM

Jason Browne - [email protected]


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.