IHTA Corner – Legionella

IHTA Addresses North Carolina Legionnaires Outbreak

This fall there was an outbreak of illnesses from legionella after people attended the NC Mountain State Fair in Fletcher, North Carolina. Four people died and 96 were hospitalized with Legionnaire’s disease and fingers quickly pointed to a hot tub display as the potential cause.

“Jen Hatfield contacted CDC immediately after news started coming out about North Carolina,” says Cindi Magray, chair of the IHTA leadership committee.

Legionnaire’s disease is a type of pneumonia that is typically contracted after someone breathes in water vapor that contains legionella bacteria.

The IHTA awaited the results of the local health department and CDC’s investigation into the cause. Unfortunately, when the report came out it was inconclusive. No hot tubs tested positive for legionella, though they had been drained and cleaned by the time they were examined. Though there was a positive test from a women’s bathroom it was a different legionella strain than the one that sickened those who attended the event. Despite the lack of evidence, the report said that hot tubs were the likely culprit.

“It’s unfortunate that there couldn’t have been some conclusive result from the report,” Hatfield says. “From the industry’s point of view though, there was never a positive test on the hot tubs that were displayed. So to say it’s probably the hot tubs, we don’t feel like you can come to that conclusion.”

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In light of the tragedy, the IHTA and PHTA are reminding the public and industry of best practices for water care at events. The CDC released its guidelines for water care in the fall, and in conjunction with the CDC, the IHTA/PHTA put together guidelines for hot tubs on public display. These guidelines include establishing the free chlorine (2–4 ppm) or bromine levels (4–6 ppm) after the initial fill at least four hours before being accessed by the public. The PHTA also recommends maintaining accurate records of disinfectant and pH measurements and maintenance activities (a template will be made available on PHTA.org). Records should include: Date and time; pH level; sanitizer level; any adjustments made.

“I would like to stress that the IHTA is proactive in situations and we continue our mission of protecting the hot tub industry,” Magray says.

New IHTA Strategic Leadership Team

The leadership team expanded to include a ninth member, and elected new officers, as follows:

  • Cindi Magray, Spa Manufacture, Inc. — Chair
  • Tom Moore, CMP — Vice Chair
  • Kreg Hause, Leisure Works
  • Patricia Diamente, Coast Spas
  • Willy Spears, Waterway
  • Tracine Marroquín, Jacuzzi
  • Steven Stigers, Watkins
  • Brent Long, Plaskolite
  • Jatinder Sidhu, Beachcomber Hot Tubs

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