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State health officials confirmed that as of today, there have been a total of 12 confirmed cases of Legionnaire’s disease linked to Hampton, NH hotels. One person has died. New Hampshire health officials have reported that they only expect the case count to rise. Those affected are treated for the respiratory infection, which can be fatal to some people.
These individuals might have contracted the Legionella bacteria at the end of July or early August in the Ashworth Avenue area between the H Street and the Island Path, as informed in a statement by New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. The stretch between the two places of the Ashworth Avenue is about half-mile. Federal authorities along with the state health officials spearheaded in investigation to find the source of the Legionella bacteria at the vacation spot. They believe the cases are linked to hotel spas or hot tubs at two hotels in the area – the Sands Resort and the Harris Sea Ranch Motel.
Officials from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be joining the state and local authorities this week to investigate the cases of Legionnaires’ growing in the area. The cases have come to light since late last Friday by the state health authorities. On that day, the announcement for the fifth case in the cluster of disease was made, and the CDC’s involvement to investigate the outbreak was announced on Monday at a public information forum in the Hampton Police Station by a panel of state officials including New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Perry Plummer.
All the cases have been adults, state officials added on Thursday. We know three people out of have been hospitalized and discharged from the hospital, but there are likely other who have been hospitalized. One person, an elderly person, died as a result of the infection.
Officials also briefed the public about the infection. They said that the Legionnaire’s disease can only be spread through the inhalation of Legionella contaminated droplets from hot tubs, faucets, decorative fountains, cooling towers, or contaminated showers. Legionnaire’s disease can’t be contracted through drinking contaminated water, unless aspiration has occurred. The disease was discovered in the year 1976 after a massive outbreak occurred at a Pennsylvania convention of the American Legion – hence, the name. According to CDC, there were a total number of 6100 confirmed Legionnaire’s disease cases in the United States last year.
“Legionella is a serious infection,” said Lisa Morris, the Director of New Hampshire’s Division of Public Health Services. “We want to make sure the public is aware of the potential risk of this disease so that each person can make a decision for themselves about visiting the area in the best interest of their health.”
State officials have advised those who are more at risk of getting the disease to postpone their visits to this part of the beach until further investigation is done in the outbreak. Not all people exposed to the bacteria will get sick, but some people are more susceptible to catching the infection, such as: smokers, those who have an underlying lung disease, and elderly people (50 years or older). Those who are under medication that can weaken their immune system, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, are also more susceptible. People with diabetes, kidney failure, and liver failure should also be more cautious.
Symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease include: headache, muscle pain, fever, chills, etc. by the first day. Shortness of breath, chest pain, gastrointestinal symptoms etc. develop by the second or third day. If you stayed in the Hampton, NH area in the last few months and have these symptoms, urgent medical attention is highly recommended.
Chan said that around 30-25 cases per year are reported to the department each year. He also said that investigating such a typical case requires expertise that warrants asking CDC to join them in the investigation. The investigation involves environmental sampling of various manmade water sources in the area, including the hotel hot tubs at the two named properties.
Panelists said that the officials have conducted an intense outreach to clinicians about the outbreak as well as the communities in the neighboring states who travel to the Hampton beach.
Impact on the Businesses:
Hampton Beach is a premier vacation spot for those living nearby. So, naturally there are a lot of businesses thriving around in the area.
Most of the business owners including Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce President John Nyhan were specifically concerned about the impact of cluster on the local businesses around. They said that their customers are worried that the place might not be safe to travel. Steve Chasse, owner of the Grayhurst Hotel on F Street sad that the information out in the media might have caused people to think that Hampton, NH was dangerous to travel to. There were a couple of people who cancelled the bookings at the hotel because they were concerned about getting infected by the bacteria.
“While the panelists said that they did not ask the public to stop visiting Hampton Beach, they have written that the presence of the bacteria is taken as a health threat,” said Elizabeth Daly, the Chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control.
Hampton Police Chief Richard Sawyer said that he was sympathetic towards the business owner as his own family once owned a business at the Hampton Beach. Sawyer asked the board of the community to keep a little patience as the investigation is going on. According to a source, Sawyer also told the selectmen that the source of the bacteria may never be discovered. This is because the bacteria can be present somewhere one day and then disappear shortly after sometime. He, however, ensured them that the state officials are working diligently so as to investigate the cluster.
For all those who wish to report Legionnaire’s disease after staying in Hampton, NH can call the state’s Department of Health and Human Services Public Enquiry Line at (603) 271-9461.
If you believe you’ve developed Legionnaire’s disease after staying in Hampton, NH, we want you to know that a Legionnaire’s disease lawyer at the Lange Law Firm, PLLC is currently investigating this outbreak and offering free legal consultations. If you or a loved one have become ill, you can call (833) 330-3663 for a free consultation or complete the form here.
By: Pooja Sharma, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)