None of the victims has been identified by authorities and health officials have not discussed the circumstances of their deaths.
In recent weeks, health officials have confirmed 140 cases among people who attended the NC Mountain State Fair in Fletcher, North Carolina, last month have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, an airborne lung infection, or Pontiac Fever, a milder form of the disease.
The 140 cases involve people from several North Carolina counties and a few other states. Ninety-four people have been hospitalized, health officials said.
The outbreak has been linked to a hot tubs display in one events center and officials said it took place during the last five days of the fair, a preliminary report shows.
There were no other significant sources of aerosolized water — small droplets of water or mist that can be inhaled — at the event center, and no other ongoing potential sources of exposure identified, the health department has said.
Legionnaires’ disease is a lung infection contracted when people breathe in the Legionella bacteria through a mist or by accidentally getting water into their lungs that contains the bacteria.
The disease is serious but can be treated with antibiotics, the department said. About 1 in 10 people who get sick from Legionnaires’ disease die, a recent government report found.
Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment but can become a health concern when they “spread in human-made water systems like hot water tanks, cooling towers of air conditioning systems, decorative fountains and hot tubs or spas that are not properly maintained,” the North Carolina health department said.