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Legionnaires' disease found at state building

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology is investigating a case of Legionnaires' disease.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said his office was notified Wednesday of the illness, which was reported to have affected an employee at a state Department of Education.

Because it was a state office, the county health department referred the investigation to the state Bureau for Public Health, Gupta said.

"We have received word that they are doing the appropriate investigation and education," Gupta said.

Legionnaire's disease is caused by the Legionella bacteria and is found in sources of water, Gupta said.

With one case, it's nearly impossible to trace the source of the bacteria, he said.

"When you have a cohort they can track it back to a common point," Gupta said. "But one case it's so difficult. Think about how much water exposure you have, there are so many different sources."

Those sources can include not only drinking and bathing water but the water vapor from an air conditioning unit, he said.

Of those exposed to the bacteria, only 2 to 3 percent of people will contract the disease, Gupta said. Those who are already ill and those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to the illness.

Untreated, the disease can impact multiple systems in the body and lead to multi-organ failure, Gupta said.

@tag:Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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