Legionnaires’ bacteria found in Harvey Hall plumbing system; not same strain that caused Legionnaire outbreak

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UPDATE:

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The City of Tyler has been notified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that, though testing for Legionella is positive at Harvey Hall, the bacteria strain found in samples from Harvey Hall was not consistent with the strain that caused the Legionnaires’ disease cases present in our community.

Due to the presence of Legionella bacteria detected within the Harvey Hall plumbing system, the City of Tyler will continue to move forward with its short-term remediation plan, followed by a long-term ongoing management plan.

“The City is taking an aggressive and proactive approach to mitigating the risk associated with Legionella,” said George Roberts, Northeast Texas Public Health District’s chief executive officer. “We discussed these measures with the CDC and both agencies support the City’s plan of action.”

The City has hired East Texas Water Quality to perform the remediation process. The City has contracted with ERI Consulting, Inc. for added inspection and oversight of the process. This process will begin on Friday, November 22.

Additionally, flushing will occur Saturday, November 23, with testing to follow on Sunday, November 24.

According to the CDC, Legionella is a common bacteria occurring naturally in freshwater and manmade environments. People can contract Legionnaires’ disease when they either breathe in mist or accidentally swallow water into the lungs containing the Legionella bacteria. Those at increased risk are adults 50 years or older, current or former smokers, and people with a weakened immune system from chronic illness. Common sources of infection include decorative fountains and hot tubs.

As part of their short-term remediation plan, the City will disconnect the hot water system in Harvey Hall as a further precaution. The City will continue to perform testing once remediation is completed to ensure safe levels within the system. Moving forward, no devices that aerosolize/vaporize water will be allowed within the facility.

“The City will continue to follow the plan laid out by our consultants for the Harvey Hall plumbing system,” said City Manager Edward Broussard. “This will ensure we are adhering to best practices that keep the risk of bacteria growth low.”

With the approval of NET Health and CDC, Harvey Hall Convention Center will re-open its doors to staff and the public on Monday, Nov. 25.

“These measures mitigate the health risk to the public,” said Roberts. “With these measures in place, we support the reopening of Harvey Hall.”

PREVIOUS STORY:

The City of Tyler is closing Harvey Hall temporarily as part of the investigation into a recent outbreak of Legionnaires Disease.

The decision came at a meeting Wednesday between city officials and representatives of the Northeast Texas Public Health District (NET Health).

NET Health officials told city officials that the source of the contamination for the outbreak was still under investigation and that no testing location could be left out, including those found within Harvey Hall.

Furthermore, the city was informed at this meeting that contamination of the building’s plumbing from a third party vendor tying into and utilizing the plumbing system was a possibility that could not be ruled out.

One man has died from Legionnaires, and NET Health has confirmed eight cases.

The sole connection between the victims is that all attended the East Texas State Fair in September.

Though the source point of the contamination has yet to be identified, the city said it is taking all additional precautions as identified by NET Health at this meeting. Among them is bringing in a third-party contractor to provide a precautionary decontamination of the plumbing system as a remedial action.

As an added precaution, the city is suspending event activity and staff operation at Harvey Hall until such actions can take place. 

“While health officials have not requested a closure, The City believes it is in the best interest of community safety at this time,” said City Manager Ed Broussard. “Because of continued unknowns communicated to us at today’s meeting, we believe it is in the best interest of our residents and staff to take these precautionary steps.”

Initial water testing from selective water fixtures was conducted by NET Health on October 25 and revealed appropriate chlorine levels were present within water samples collected in Harvey Hall.  Chlorine is one of several items used to ensure public water is safe, and is the only element that is tested within the initial sampling process. NET Health advised the city on October 25 that there was no evidence of any public health risk that would require cancelling events at Harvey Hall.

Neither the city nor NET Health have received other reports of illness related to Legionnaire’s Disease linked to Harvey Hall or the time period of the East Texas State Fair. Additionally, no other issues have been reported within other city-operated facilities.

However, the city will opt to have heavily utilized public facilities go use the same remedial process recommended by health officials over the next several months to reduce the likelihood that this could ever occur. Additionally, the city will be updating its venue policies to prohibit vendors from bringing in misting apparatuses.

“While the City understands the inconvenience that stems from moving events from Harvey Hall, we are committed to putting the health and safety of our residents and staff first,” said Broussard.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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