County health officials announced on Thursday they’re investigating six cases of the disease in people between the ages of 40 and 80.
Of those, four are currently fighting the disease in the hospital.
“This situation is unique because we’re seeing a cluster of cases coming up within a fairly narrow time frame, and residing in a similar area,” said Dr. Christina Baumann, Washington County Health Officer. “That is unusual and that’s why we’re giving much more attention and looking into this.”
The average number of Legionnaires’ disease cases reported in Washington County range from 9- 14, with the highest recorded number of outbreaks being 19 cases in 2019.
Dr. Christina Baumann told KOIN 6 News, “This year, so far we’ve had 14 cases, so we may exceed that high that we had back in 2019.”
Legionnaires’ disease is a serious type of pneumonia caused by water-born bacteria which often stem from hot tubs, hot water tanks and plumbing systems.
The infection is caused by breathing in droplets from a contaminated water source and is not often spread from person-to-person.
But for older individuals and those with pre-existing health conditions the disease is potentially deadly.
“The mortality rate is one out of ten,” stated Dr. Christina Baumann. “So we’re taking this very seriously when seeing this cluster of illness, and trying to get the word out and really encourage people to seek care early.”
They told KOIN 6 News they will continue to interview sick patients, local residents, and business owners to try and determine the cause of the outbreak, though the process will likely be timely.
In the meantime, health officials are calling on residents who frequent the area to seek medical care immediately if they experience any flu-like symptoms such as coughing, body aches, fever, nausea, vomiting or confusion.
Washington County Public Health says they will update the public as soon as they have more information.