As health authorities investigate two local cases of Legionnaires’ disease, the Waco Family Y has closed a hot tub area where exposure to the Legionella bacteria may have occurred.
The area’s flagship YMCA at 6800 Harvey Road remained open this week, but its officials on Monday closed the whirlpool area adjacent to an indoor pool after consulting with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, YMCA President and CEO Rodney Martin said.
“The health and wellness of our members and guests are our highest priority to our Y,” Martin said in a statement.
Health district officials said they believe the two patients contracted the Legionella bacteria between Feb. 4 and Feb. 21. In addition to the type of pneumonia known as Legionnaires’ disease, the bacteria can also cause a milder illness called Pontiac fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Someone can become sick after breathing in mist or accidentally swallowing water containing Legionella, according to the CDC.
Anyone who has come down with pneumonia-like symptoms within two weeks of visiting the Waco Family Y this month should see a health care provider, said health district spokeswoman Kelly Craine.
Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, headaches, or other pneumonia-like symptoms, according to the CDC.
Craine said once the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District was notified of the cases, its staff began working backward to find a common denominator between the two patient. The Waco Family YMCA has hired a health-district approved water management company to test the water, she said.
“The hot tub has been closed and it is the only area that’s been closed,” she said. “That’s mainly because the conditions of the hot tub in general. Because of the mist, you always want to look at the hot tub as a possible suspect.”
Legionnaires’ disease is a serious illness, but it cannot be contracted from another person, she said.
“The risk is low to develop it and that’s why we always immediately respond when someone does get it, because it’s an unusual situation,” Craine said. “The risk is specific to people that have been to the Y and specifically in a water system. This is not exposure that you’d be at risk for catching if you did not visit the Y.”
This is the first report of Legionnaires’ disease this year, Craine said.
Two cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in guests who stayed last summer at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Waco North, 4257 N. Interstate 35 in Lacy Lakeview. The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District had previously required the hotel to notify guests in August 2017 after four cases of the disease were reported in guests dating back to October 2016.
In January, a Waco attorney filed a lawsuit against the hotel and its corporate owner, alleging he contracted the disease during his six-day stay there.
In 2016, health departments reported about 6,100 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the United States, and almost 7,500 cases in 2017, according to the CDC. The disease, however, is often underdiagnosed, according to the CDC. Roughly one in 10 people who catch the disease die, according to the CDC.
Anyone with questions can contact the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District at 750-5411.