At least 2 cases of Legionnaires’ disease confirmed on Kauai

The state Health Department is investigating multiple cases of Legionnaire’s disease on Kauai.

Health officials are aware of two confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease involving people who stayed at the WorldMark Kapaa Shores Resort.

Officials say the two cases stayed at the hotel in late April to early May and then returned to their homes on the mainland where they were diagnosed, treated and then recovered. DOH is in contact with the health departments in those states.

DOH was apprised of the cases in mid-May and advised the hotel at that time, and the hotel secured an environmental consultant to evaluate their water system. The hotel is taking protective measures and working with DOH to prevent any further illness.

DOH was recently notified of a possible third case that also stayed at the hotel around the same time as the two confirmed cases.

All three involved older adults and officials say there are no definitive findings on common possible sources or activities except that the dates of their hotel stays overlapped.

No other cases have been reported at this time. The investigation is still ongoing.

The following information was provided by the Hawaii Department of Health:

How contagious is this disease?

The disease is not spread from person-to-person. After Legionella bacteria grows and multiplies in a building water system, that contaminated water then has to spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in. People are exposed to Legionella when they breathe in mist (small droplets of water in the air) containing the bacteria.

Most healthy people do not get sick after being exposed to Legionella. People at increased risk of getting sick are:

  • People 50 years or older
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
  • People with a weak immune system from diseases like cancer, diabetes, or kidney failure
  • People who take drugs that suppress (weaken) the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)

What is the DOH doing to prevent the disease from spreading?

When DOH was apprised of the cases, the department contacted the hotel and advised the hotel to evaluate potential sources. The hotel secured an environmental consultant to evaluate their water system. The hotel has reported advising its customers and is taking measures to prevent the possibility of a future case.

The key to preventing legionellosis is making sure that the water systems in buildings are maintained in order to reduce the risk of growing and spreading Legionella. Examples of water systems that might spread Legionella include:

  • Hot tubs
  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Large plumbing systems
  • Cooling towers (air-conditioning systems for large buildings)
  • Decorative fountains

What are the symptoms of this disease?

Legionnaires’ disease symptoms are similar to other types of pneumonia (lung infection) and it often looks the same on a chest x-ray. Symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • High fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches

Legionnaires’ disease can also be associated with other symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and confusion. Symptoms usually begin 2 to 10 days after being exposed to the bacteria, but it can take longer so people should watch for symptoms for about 2 weeks after exposure.

What kind of precautions should people take if they display these symptoms?

If you develop pneumonia symptoms, see a doctor right away. Be sure to mention if you may have used a hot tub, spent any nights away from home, or stayed in a hospital in the last two weeks, and ask about the possibility of Legionella infection.

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