New Hampshire

At Least 4 Contract Legionnaires' Disease, Air Unit May Be to Blame

Public health authorities in New Hampshire say four people who have been identified with Legionnaires' disease likely acquired the disease in Hampton.

Authorities are still looking for the source of the disease, which they believe to be an industrial air conditioning unit.

"A large system that includes water in it that may be spewing this bacteria out into the environment," Beth Daly, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, said.

According to authorities, the people infected most likely picked up the disease near Ashworth Avenue between Island Path and H Street.

"We're interviewing people who have become infected, and we encourage anyone who may have been diagnosed with legionella since visiting this area to please contact us," Daly said.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Public Health Services says the four people likely acquired Legionella at the end of July or beginning of August in a localized area of Hampton. Legionnaires' disease, also called Legionella pneumonia, is a bacterial pneumonia. Its symptoms usually appear within two to ten days after infection.

The public health department says it is investigating for additional cases of the disease. The disease is usually spread by inhaling droplets of water contaminated with the bacteria.

Many people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. The disease has the ability to cause serious illness and death, however. People over age 50, current or former smokers and those with weakened immune systems are at highest risk for the disease. 

Public health officials are warning those at increased risk to avoid the Hampton Beach area. 

“It’s certainly something to be worried about,” Daly said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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