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12th case of Legionnaires’ confirmed in Wilson County

Wilson County health officials confirmed an additional case of Legionnaires’ disease Thursday linked to Wilson Pines, a nursing and rehabilitation facility. That brings the county’s total to 12 cases announced since June 13.

Joyce Wetherington, Wilson County Health Department spokeswoman, said this case was a visitor at Wilson Pines in May. 

County health officials confirmed three additional cases of Legionnaires’ disease Tuesday. And for the first time, one of the cases wasn’t linked to any health care facility. 

Of the eight cases now linked to the Wilson Pines outbreak, three are visitors. There are three cases linked to Longleaf-Neuro Medical Treatment Center. Those cases were all residents. Two there were classified as retrospective cases or no longer symptomatic. 

"Control measures are still in effect,” Wetherington said Thursday. 

Officials said Wilson Pines has completed a "hyper chlorination process and have installed 0.2 micron filters to any water taps that are in use.” Those micron filters provide an "absolute barrier to the Legionella bacteria,” officials said. 

Initial environmental samples taken from Wilson Pines tested positive for Legionella. The second set of samples were taken after the they completed the hyper chlorination process. Wetherington said they expect those results to be back sometime next week. 

Some doctors and health care providers in the community have requested tests for patients who display symptoms of pneumonia and fall into categories typically susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease. Urine is tested and a chest X-ray is performed. 

Longleaf and Wilson Pines remain under water restrictions and are working with engineering firms to identify and fix the problem, officials have said. Both facilities have also suspended new admissions and visitors restrictions are still in place. 

Legionella is a bacterium commonly found in the environment, usually in hot water and in systems producing aerosols or mist. People can get infected when they breathe in a mist or vapor that has been contaminated with Legionella bacteria. But most people who are exposed to that bacteria do not get sick, state officials said. 

Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial pneumonia and can’t be spread from person to person, officials said. 

Last year, 12 percent of Legionnaires’ cases reported in the state were in Wilson County, according to state statistics. 

The county makes up less than 1 percent of the state’s population. There were 90 cases reported in North Carolina last year. State public health officials are investigating the reason for the uptick in cases. State officials said this week that no common exposures have been identified to explain the increased number of reported cases in 2013. State officials say the number of Legionella cases in general can fluctuate widely on state and local levels. State officials have said that increases in Legionella cases in other areas of the state have been linked to weather patterns and other local environmental factors. Officials also said increased numbers of reports can also be related to increased testing by providers in a given community. 

The county health department has been in contact with the City of Wilson’s Department of Water Resources. City officials said earlier this week that tests were conducted to the city’s water supply since the confirmed cases. Officials said there is no link between public water and the outbreaks. 

"The city’s water supply is not suspected in any of these cases,” said David Staab, water treatment manager.|265-7879
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