Tyler man dies after contracting Legionnaires’ Disease, experts say illness is growing across U.S.

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TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The number of Legionnaires’ Disease cases has been steadily increasing across the United Stated since 2000 including one East Texas resident.

CDC

The illness is a result of inhaling the mist or vapor of bacteria-infected water.

Ruben Gutierrez is a victim of the bacteria-infected water and by all accounts, was a community man. He was heavily involved in politics in East Texas and was a retired correctional officer.

Gutierrez shared a story with a friend, Michael Tolbert, about a time when the correctional facility he was working at lost power, leaving him in the same room with the inmates.

“I believe it’s a testament to his personality, to the respect that those around him had for him, anybody else would not have been safe in that situation, but because they respected him, he didn’t have any problems,” said Tolbert.

Gutierrez is the first death related to the Legionnaires outbreak right here in East Texas.

“In the last month, we’ve had seven confirmed cases and five suspected cases of Legionnaires Disease,” said George Roberts, CEO of NET Health.

According to NET Health, the illness has been traced back to the East Texas State Fair. The case is similar to the massive outbreak in North Carolina in early October, which has been linked to a hot tub display at the fair.

“There definitely has been an uptick over the last 10 years in the number of cases despite all the attention that this disease is starting to get and all the so-called steps that are being regulated and discussed to keep the number of cases down,” said New York lawyer, Tom Bernier.

He is worried a complete clearing of the disease will be tough to accomplish.

“There are some profoundly injured people as a result of contracting Legionnaires Disease and I think they’re going to continue for quite a while, it’s a very difficult bug to control and to get rid of,” said Bernier.

With the investigation ongoing, getting to the bottom of the cause continues.

In the meantime, a celebration of life for Gutierrez has been planned for 2:00 p.m. on Thursday at Cedar Street United Methodist Church in Tyler.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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