North Carolina

Outbreak of fatal lung disease linked to a North Carolina fair continues to grow

UPDATE: The outbreak has been tied to a hot tub display at the fair, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday afternoon. Below is the original story, with updated numbers.

The number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal lung condition, continues to grow in western North Carolina, public health officials say.

One person has died and public health officials have confirmed 124 cases of the disease that is potentially linked to the North Carolina Mountain State Fair in September, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Six of the confirmed cases are in South Carolina, officials said.

Since the fair, held Sept. 6-15 in Fletcher, North Carolina, 75 people have been hospitalized with the disease, DHHS said.

Legionnaires’ cannot be spread between people. Patients contract the disease by getting water with the Legionella bacteria in their lungs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The water can get in people’s lungs when they breath in mist or aspirate, the CDC said.

The bacteria “can also cause a milder flu-like illness called Pontiac fever, which resolves without treatment,” according to state public health officials.

Buncombe and Henderson counties have seen the most cases, public health officials say.

Here’s a breakdown by county of the cases confirmed by DHHS:

  • Buncombe County: 47
  • Burke County: 2
  • Gaston County: 1
  • Granville County: 1
  • Haywood County: 10
  • Henderson County: 32
  • Jackson County: 1
  • Madison County: 6
  • McDowell County: 3
  • Mecklenburg County: 3
  • Mitchell County: 2
  • Polk County: 1
  • Rutherford County: 2
  • Transylvania County: 3
  • Union County: 1
  • Watauga County: 1
  • Yancey County: 1
  • Out of state (SC): 7
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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.
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