Legionnaires’ disease confirmed in Nashua

NASHUA – Along with the 12 incidents of Legionnaires’ disease at Hampton Beach, including at least one which resulted in death, August saw two confirmed cases of this bacterial pneumonia in Nashua.

While officials with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health Services continue their investigation of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that is associated with the Ashworth Avenue area of Hampton, Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services Director Bobbie Bagley said two cases have popped up in Nashua.

“They were reported this month in August, but upon investigation, they were deemed not related to the Hampton cases,” Nashua public health nurse Flavia Martin said.

According to the state health division, Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially serious bacterial pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria. Those 12 people with confirmed cases in Hampton likely acquired their infections from early June to mid-August.

One of those 12 Hampton victims, an elderly adult, died due to complications related to the disease.

Currently, state officials, along with those from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are working to identify a potential source of the bacteria in New Hampshire.

Of those Hampton cases, the majority of people stayed or resided in the Ashworth Avenue area, although it is possible they may have received other exposures.

“We are working hard to identify the exact source of these infections,” New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services Director Lisa Morris said. “Even though the information is preliminary, we want to allow the public to make informed decisions about visiting the area and their activities in the area.”

Officials believe the current overall health risk to the community is low. However, individuals who are at a higher risk of the disease should continue to take steps to protect their health, which includes postponing a visit to the area if they are concerned about their health.

According to the CDC, those with an increased risk of getting sick from the bacteria include those who:

have weakened immune systems;

take drugs that can weaken their immune systems (after transplant operation or chemotherapy);

have chronic lung disease;

are current or former smokers;

have underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure or liver failure; and

are older than 50.

“Federal, state and local authorities are working cooperatively and diligently to address this situation and help mitigate any additional health risks,” Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday. “Through regular communication and transparency, we will ensure members of the public have the most up to date information so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

Bagley said this particular bacterial infection cannot be passed from person-to-person. Rather, it is acquired by breathing in small drops of water that contain the bacteria. It cannot be contracted by drinking or coming into physical contact with water containing the bacteria, such as during swimming, for example. Most people who come in contact with the bacteria will not get sick, although severe illness can occur, sometimes resulting in death, as already seen.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, according to CDC, include:

cough,

shortness of breath,

fever,

headaches, and

muscle aches.

Martin said upon interviewing the Nashua patients, health officials determined the cases were not connected to the Hampton outbreak. She said one was contracted out of state, while it’s not yet been determined where the other case was contracted.

“When a report comes in, we have a protocol that we follow which includes interviewing with the person that is ill or was sick and ask them a series of questions to determine where the exposure could have happened,” Martin said.

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.