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Gwinnett County Legionella Investigation Update

Updated 12/21/2017 8:11 AM

Following additional water testing and remediation, the Gwinnett County Health Department cleared the JM Tull YMCA to reopen all aquatic areas on 12/19/2017.

The investigation is closed.

 

Updated 11/29/2017 4:50 PM

The Gwinnett County Health Department is working with the JM Tull YMCA to investigate reported illnesses due to Legionella infection. Further remediation will take place according to additional guidance from the CDC, specifically related to hot tubs/whirlpools.

Legionella is a bacteria that can be found in water, specifically water vapors found in hot tubs, showers, or other aerosolized water sources (steam, mist, fog, etc.). Legionellosis, a respiratory illness, is caused by breathing in small droplets of water that contain Legionella bacteria.  Legionellosis is generally not spread from person to person.

People with Legionellosis may have cough, shortness of breath, appetite loss, muscle pain, headache, and fever. Symptoms usually begin 2–10 days after exposure. Individuals over the age of 65, current or former smokers, or individuals with a weakened immune system are more susceptible to developing illness due to Legionella.

If you have symptoms that are consistent with Legionellosis, please contact your medical provider and let them know of your potential exposure. If you or your medical provider have questions, please contact the Gwinnett County Health Department at 770-339-4260, press 0 and ask to speak with the Epidemiologist on call.

Additional information about Legionella can also be found at:

www.cdc.gov/about/facts/cdcdiscovery/legionnaires.html

Https://dph.georgia.gov/legionellosis

Your health and safety is our highest priority. Thank you for your continued patience as we work with the JM Tull YMCA to resolve this issue.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Ongoing Legionella Investigation (as of 11.29.2017)

What is Legionella and how can it lead to Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionella is a bacteria that can be found in water, specifically water vapors found in hot tubs, showers, or other aerosolized water sources (steam, mist, fog, etc.). Legionnaire’s disease can be caused by breathing in small droplets of water that contain Legionella. Refer to CDC factsheet for more information

It is important to remember that the incidence of legionella infections in the general population is very low. Individuals who are most susceptible to this infection are the elderly, current and former smokers, and individuals with a weakened immune system. If an individual has symptoms that are consistent with legionella, including cough, shortness of breath, high fever, headache, and muscle aches, they should contact their medical provider to discuss their illness.

How did the Health Department become aware of a possible connection to the YMCA?

On Monday, November 6th the Gwinnett County Health Department contacted the YMCA branch regarding reported cases of Legionella among facility attendees. The potential link was discovered during routine disease surveillance interviews by Gwinnett County Public Health Epidemiology staff. Legionellosis is a reportable disease in Georgia and all cases are investigated to determine potential sources of exposure.

What did the Health Department recommend the YCMA do?

The Gwinnett County Health Department partnered with the YMCA to discuss the investigation. It was agreed, while the investigation is ongoing, that the facility would close the aquatic areas pending remediation. The facility is working with a company to conduct remediation.

What determines what type of testing is done?

Testing for Legionella is not a part of routine water testing. In accordance with CDC’s guidance, when illnesses may be associated with a facility, testing and remediation is recommended. These guidelines can be referenced at https://www.cdc.gov/legionella/health-depts/inv-tools-cluster/environmental-inv-tools.html

What has been found during the investigation?

The investigation is ongoing. Health Department staff conducted routine inspections of the facility on November 7th.  No violations were observed.  Remediation actions, as recommended by CDC and OSHA, are ongoing with the facility through their contractor.

 Are Health Department staff on site at the YMCA? 

Health Department staff were on site at the facility November 6th to 7th conducting the investigation.   No Health Department staff are currently on site.

 Is this an “outbreak” of Legionella?

For most all diseases, including legionella, influenza, salmonella, etc., two or more cases linked in person, place or time is defined as an outbreak. The current investigation does meet the definition of an outbreak.

How many people have come forward since the investigation?

The investigation is ongoing. Per the guidance sent out by the YMCA and Health Department, individuals experiencing symptoms consistent with Legionella have been directed to contact their primary care provider. All Legionella infections are reportable to the Health Department.

 Why is the YMCA closing down the spas since they’ve met with Health Department?

Based on additional guidance from the CDC, the YMCA is preforming additional recommended remediation for hot tubs/whirlpools.


Weren’t the whirlpools already remediated?

Yes, they were, however based on the additional guidance and out of an abundance of caution, the YMCA is preforming additional remediation.

 

How many people have come forward since the investigation?

The investigation is ongoing, however no additional cases of legionella linked to the YMCA have been identified.

 

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 Updates as of 12.20.2017:

Were any additional cases of Legionella identified that were associated with the outbreak?

No, no additional cases were identified. 

Was Legionella found in the water at the YMCA?

Small amounts of Legionella were found in the whirlpool spas. No Legionella was found in other areas of the YMCA water system.  

What was done in response to the positive Legionella tests?

The YMCA once again met with the Health Department and additional guidance focusing on remediation of spas and whirlpools was provided.  The YMCA immediately closed the spas to allow for additional remediation conducted focused on the removal of any biofilm where Legionella may have been growing in the water system. 

Was additional testing required before the YMCA reopened the spas?

Yes.  Follow-up testing was conducted after the biofilm remediation and tests were negative for Legionella.  

Will the YMCA continue to test the water?

Yes, as a part of the outbreak investigation, the YMCA will test the water numerous times over the next six months in accordance with CDC guidance.