Legionnaires’ Disease Update: Confirmed Count Remains at 15

For immediate release:
August 13, 2002

Contact: Linda Dorey
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON—As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, health officials investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Washington County have confirmed no new cases of the disease. The total remains at 15 cases of Legionnaires’ disease and seven cases of milder infection.

Of the 15 cases, only one person remains hospitalized.

To date, at least 65 people who exhibited symptoms consistent with the illness have been tested and found to be negative.

“The evidence gathered over the course of the investigation continues to point to an outdoor source as the cause of the outbreak,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Jan K. Carney.

A sample taken from one cooling tower in the Waterbury state office complex tested positive for the bacterium that causes the disease, and other environmental test results are pending. However, officials said that 80 percent of all cooling towers test positive and the single test result does not prove that this is the source of the outbreak.

“Two cooling structures at the state office complex and one at a nearby business were cleaned and disinfected earlier this month,” Carney said. “Based on the timing of when the cooling towers were disinfected, we could still have people developing symptoms through this weekend and we could identify cases into next week.”

Nationally, bacteria growing in cooling towers has been associated with outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease.

Legionnaires’ disease is not passed from person to person. People get it by inhaling mists that contain Legionella pneumophila.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacterium is a “ubiquitous aquatic organism that thrives in warm environments” and is found in an estimated eight out of 10 cooling towers.

For more information on Legionnaires’ disease, visit the CDC website—www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/legionellosis_g.htm