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Legionnaires’ disease Outbreak Tied to North Carolina Mountain State Fair

EMSL Analytical offers rapid PCR and traditional culturing methods to identify the microbial pathogen that causes Legionnaires’ disease from environmental samples.

Raleigh, NC – WEBWIRE

The Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services and the Henderson County Health Department notified the North Carolina Division of Public Health (DPH) on September 23rd of an increase in reported Legionnaires’ disease cases. In response, information gathered by local health departments and officials indicated that most of the cases attended the North Carolina Mountain State Fair held at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center (WNC Ag Center) in Fletcher, NC. As of October 21st, the DPH has confirmed 142 cases of Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever. Due to the severity of the disease, 95 people were hospitalized and four cases were unfortunately fatal.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Interim Report updated on October 18th, states from September 25th -27th, the DPH conducted a site visit to the WNC Ag Center accompanied by North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) staff to collect environmental samples and to identify any sources of aerosolized water. Samples were also collected from hot tubs that had been on display during the fair and from a cooling fan that had also been present at the fair. Of the samples collected, one sample tested positive for Legionella pneumophila; however, it is important to note that samples were not collected until between 12 and 22 days after the end of the fair. The DPH conducted a case control study to identify the sources of exposure. Preliminary results from their study indicated that individuals who became sick were more likely to have visited the Davis Event Center, walked by or spent time at the hot tubs in the Davis Center and attended during the latter half of the fair.

While the Interim Report conclusions indicate that this outbreak has ended, the same conclusions remind the public that hot tubs have previously been associated with Legionella outbreaks, both nationally and internationally, and that hot tubs are a “well-established source of aerosolized water exposure,” said Jason Dobranic, Ph.D., Vice President of Microbiology and Life Sciences at EMSL Analytical, Inc. He added that, “Preventing exposure to Legionella is important as infections can cause serious illness and even death in some circumstances. Sadly, this case is an example of the worst case scenario.”

On October 31st, the NCDA&CS released an update detailing additional environmental sampling conducted for Legionella bacteria at the WNC Ag Center and the mitigation techniques employed. Officials plan to resume renting the facilities for events based upon these activities and findings.

To learn more about Legionella or other microbial testing services, please visit or, email  or call (800) 220-3675.

EMSL has also sponsored an educational video about Legionella and spas that can be seen at:

About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is one of the leading testing laboratories with over 46 locations throughout the United States and Canada. EMSL is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider specializing in fast laboratory results for mold, bacteria, Legionella, USP 797, pathogens, asbestos, lead, soot, char & ash from fires, VOC’s, odors, radon, formaldehyde, indoor air quality, microbiology, environmental, industrial hygiene, radiological, food, beverage & consumer products and material testing services for the identification of unknown substances. EMSL services both professionals and the general public. EMSL maintains an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulating bodies including, but not limited to A2LA, AIHA LAP, LLC. (AIHA EMLAP, AIHA IHLAP, AIHA ELLAP), NVLAP, CDC ELITE, CPSC, CA ELAP, NY ELAP, TX DOH, NJDEP and multiple other state accrediting agencies. Please visit our website at for a complete listing of accreditations. In addition, EMSL carries a wide range of Sampling Equipment and Investigative Products for environmental professionals.

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 Legionnaires’ Disease
 Pontiac Fever
 Legionella Pneumophila
 Hot Tub

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