BUNCOMBE COUNTY, NC (WSPA) – Emergency rooms across Western North Carolina have been slammed with patients amid a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak.
State health officials haven’t identified a source of bacteria but say of the 63 confirmed cases most are patients who got sick after going to the Mountain State Fair in Fletcher earlier this month.
Buncombe County Health and Human Services officials said there are 20 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including one fatality.
In Henderson County, the number of cases nearly doubled to 22.
AdventHealth officials say since the outbreak there have been very few open beds in the emergency room.
Dr. Steven Hauser says the ER has been slammed with nearly 100 patients a day. He says that’s 25 percent more than normal.
The physician tells 7News the patients are all experiencing similar symptoms. “Fever, chills, cough, nausea and upset stomach,” Hauser said.
North Carolina health officials have linked many of the confirmed cases to the Mountain State Fair.
Thousand have attended the event, but at least 2 people 7News spoke with say they aren’t worried.
“Do you think you’ll get check out now?” Asked 7News reporter Stefany Bornman.
“No, I’m not really feeling sick,” said Sydney Morgan.
“I haven’t felt bad,” Samantha Catalina told 7News.
The 10-day agricultural fair was held September 6th – 15th. Hauser says that’s why healthcare providers are seeing the cases now.
“The fair ended [and] the incubation time for Legionella is about 2 to 10 days,” he said.
AdventHealth brought in additional doctors this week to keep up with the number of patients. Dr. Hauser says the hospital also ordered Legionnaires’ testing kits that could be processed in house to expedite treatment.
“It’s a urine test and right now we have it in our lab,” he said. “It takes about 40 minutes to turn around.”
Health officials are still investigating the source, but Dr. Hauser says he’s noticed a pattern among his patients.
“We are seeing that many of the vendors who were there all day long are the ones that are primarily being infected,” said Hauser.
State health officials say Legionnaires’ Disease is not typically spread person to person.
Dr. Hauser says if you haven’t experienced symptoms by now you don’t need to get tested.
Health officials want to identify the source of the Legionella bacteria in order to prevent another outbreak in the future. They are encouraging people to report possible cases to the Division of Public Health by calling 919-733-3419.