August 30. 2018 1:23PM

NH confirms first death in Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Hampton

By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent


Ocean Boulevard in Hampton Beach 

HAMPTON – The state’s epidemiologist said Thursday that a person has died from complications officials believe were connected to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Hampton.

“It was an elderly adult who passed away due to complications from pneumonia,” said Dr. Benjamin Chan at a press conference held at the Hampton Police Department.

The state epidemiologist would not release the individual’s gender, age or where they lived. He did say 11 of the 12 confirmed cases are people who visited Hampton recently.

Chan said officials believe there are two potential sources of public contamination, the hot tubs at either The Sands Resort of Ashworth Avenue or Harris Sea Ranch Motel on Ocean Boulevard.

The hot tub area at both establishments have been closed though the businesses remain open, he said.

More cases of Legionnaires’ disease are expected to be confirmed, said Chan, who said the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is working closely with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigators.

“It is likely there will be additional cases to report in the next few days,” he said.

Officials used a drone Wednesday to identify other possible public sources of contamination in the area, such as cooling towers.

Hot tubs are a good breeding ground for Legionella pneumonia bacteria because of the warm water. The disease is contracted when people breath in the air droplets that are contaminated with the bacteria. Proximity to the source matters.

“The closer you are to the source, the more likely you are to be exposed and affected,” Chan said.

Officials discovered the outbreak Aug. 24. Chan said state officials have not investigated a Legionnaires’ disease cluster in 15 years or more, but there are 30 to 35 cases reported in New Hampshire annually.

Those who contracted the illness in Hampton are believed to have acquired it at the end of July or early August. Symptoms typically take two to 10 days to appear.