North Carolina

Man went into coma with Legionnaires’ disease after NC fair. His family wants answers

The family of one of the dozens of people who contracted Legionnaires’ disease after attending a fair in Western North Carolina is demanding answers.

Michael Petrey’s attorneys spoke out about the incident and his condition in a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Fletcher, where the North Carolina Mountain State Fair was held last month.

Petrey and his family went to the fair on Sept. 15, which was the last day it was open, according to a release from one of his attorneys.

Petrey got sick soon after he attended the fair, his attorneys said in a news release. He was diagnosed with the lung disease eight days later, went into a coma and was put on dialysis Oct. 2.

He remains hospitalized in intensive care, where he is “weak, extremely fatigued and having serious issues with his kidneys,” the attorneys said.

Now his attorneys are encouraging people who attended the fair to get tested for the disease and are calling on the state for more information, they said in the press conference broadcast live over Facebook by WLOS.

Petrey is one of 87 people who have been hospitalized with the disease since attending the fair, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

There have been 132 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ as of Wednesday, and one person has died, according to the department.

Last week, health officials linked the outbreak to a hot tub display at the fair, The Charlotte Observer reported.

NCDHHS findings showed that those who attended the fair and contracted the disease were much more likely to have reported walking by the hot tub display than those who were not diagnosed, and testing found Legionella bacteria in water samples.

Petrey and his family hired attorneys L. Chris Stewart, Matt Wetherington and Lindsey Curcio to assist in “getting additional information about exactly what occurred,” the release said.

Wehterington and Stewart are representing several other families who have symptoms of the disease in the Asheville area and emphasized the danger of the disease in the press conference.

“We are here today to call on the state agencies to provide additional information related to their testing, what they know and who knows” Matt Wetherington said at the press conference. “Because this is not just about stopping the disease this is about holding the people responsible accountable.”

He said Petrey shouldn’t have contracted the disease.

“This isn’t an unfortunate accident,” he said. “This is an extreme negligence.”

He said that every hot tub vendor and manufacturer knows Legionella is a “risk in all water supplies”

“To allow Legionella to grow to the level that it did at this fair is unconscionable,” he said.

Chris Stewart said at the press conference that this isn’t about lawsuits yet but about telling people to get tested for the disease.

“We’re worried that a lot of people may just think they have pneumonia or the flu and are at home or in a rural area and trying to be tough as many of us try and be when we get sick and not knowing that they are fighting this disease,” he said. So people out there if you were at this fair during that time period please get tested.”

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Bailey Aldridge is a reporter covering real-time news in North and South Carolina. She has a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.