The outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in New Hampshire is worsening as more information becomes available to the authorities. Authorities have released the latest numbers of victims which confirm that 14 people have become infected, 12 have been hospitalized with one elderly lady dying. Hampton Beach is an extremely popular resort and authorities are working to bring the situation under control as the summer season closes up. The timeframe given by the state of New Hampshire for the outbreak is between June 14 and August 24. The resorts have responded by cleaning their water system.
The hot tub is usually the source of unrivalled joy on vacations. The spot to unwind and forgot about the stresses of life. For revellers in New Hampshire, the hot tub has provided a plethora of problems. Legionnaires’ disease for countless Americans would be a complete mystery. However, given the high number of cases recorded across the country it deserves our full attention. Numbers affected are rising and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports there are an estimated 5,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease reported every year in the United States. New Hampshire does not bask in yearlong sunshine perfect for hot tubs but is still facing up to the realities of Legionnaires’ disease as New Hampshire sees an average of 30 to 35 cases of Legionnaires’ disease annually. Octogenarian Carl Forsman Hampton Beach spent six days in the hospital earlier this summer for Legionnaires’ disease after visiting the hot tub at the Hampton Beach hotel. “The second day I was at the Hampton Beach hotel, I was diagnosed correctly with Legionnaires pneumonia, I didn’t make a big fuss about it. We treated it with some pretty heavy duty antibiotics.”
To understand the situation better, let’s lay out what facts are known to the authorities working tirelessly on this case. A recent report published by CDC showed the legionella bacteria was discovered in some guest rooms, a hot tub, water heater and an outdoor shower hose. The establishments in question are the Sands Hotel and the Harris Sea Ranch Motel, both located in the main tourist haunt of Hampshire. Luckily, the illness has not spread to other establishments in the region. The legionnaires’ outbreak has been declared and the relevant authorities have been conducting rigorous investigations to understand better the origin and scale of the outbreak. As a precaution, officials have closed the hot spas at the Sands Hotel and Harris Sea Ranch Motel given that this is the main breeding ground for bacteria. Tom Saab, co-owner of the Sands Resort, where the hot tub is drained and cleaned several times each week, states that “CDC asked as a courtesy if we could shut down our hot tub which is a very small hot tub which has been here for 25 years and we’ve never had a problem whatsoever. It’s immaculate. It has all brand new filters, new pump.” The old infrastructure of the hot tub is a major concern and closing the main environment where bacteria thrives is important. Cleaning the water supply is a necessary step by the resorts to restore the highest standards of health and safety.
Legionnaires’ disease is becoming an increasing occurrence in the U.S. with health departments reporting around 6,100 cases to the CDC two years ago. Given the popularity of hot tubs and swimming pools, this number is low but still a possibility that must be taken seriously. The low number of reported cases can be attributed to little education of symptoms with the illness being relatively rare and not widely discussed. There is also difficulty in distinguishing with pneumonia with symptoms being the typical cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches. Authorities are aware of these problems in reporting and state that there may have been more cases. As with most illnesses, the severity of the illness depends on the health of the victim with elderly victims having a high chance of dying. Legionnaires’ disease has no vaccine and often requires hospitalization with health professionals using antibiotics. Healthy adults who are exposed to the legionnaire’s bacteria won’t contract the disease, but according to CDC, about 1 in 10 people who contract the infection will die.
Legionnaire’s disease is directly associated with contaminated water. There are a variety of breeding grounds for legionella, the bacteria associated with legionnaires disease. Main culprits include showers and faucets, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, fountains and water features—but one of the more common culprits behind outbreaks are contaminated and dirty cooling towers. Researchers, scientists and academics have conducted a variety of studies that alarmingly show that 40 to 60 percent of cooling towers have tested positive for legionella. It must be noted that whenever legionella growth does occur, it’s formation can often be attributed to accumulated algae, mold or bacteria within a dirty cooling tower mixing with the tower’s warm water. This combination of mold and warm water is a perfect environment for bacterial growth. A company statement shows that the hot water temperature was between 106 and 112 degrees, when it’s supposed to always be above 110 degrees to kill legionella bacteria. There is contention between company staff and CDC over the length of the water running and the constraints of this for proper temperature reading. Company staff have conducted their own tests which disputes the temperature and instead shows between 125 and 130 degrees.
New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey A. Meyers has provided an update, “early test results from the CDC indicate the presence of the legionella bacteria in several environmental samples taken from the facility’s water system. I have issued the order to The Sands Resort to ‘take immediate steps to remediate the legionella bacteria identified at the facility and notify guests of the bacteria’s presence’ to ensure the health of guests and visitors of the establishment, as well as the health of Hampton residents and visitors. The Sands Resort will immediately notify current and future guests of the legionella outbreak and take steps to remediate the premise plumbing system in order to mitigate the risk to the public’s health”.
If you believe you have developed Legionnaires’ disease, we want you to know that a Legionnaires’ Lawyer at the Lange Law Firm, PLLC is currently investigating this matter and offering free legal consultations. Our lawyer, Jory Lange became a lawyer to help make our communities and families safer.
If you or a loved one have become ill with Legionnaires’ disease, you can call 833.330.3663 for a free consultation or complete the form here.
By: Billy Rayfield, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)