There are at least six cases of Legionnaires' disease in the Murrayhill area of Beaverton, according to Washington County Public Health officials.
The cases were reported within the last week in people who live within two miles of Murray Boulevard and Scholls Ferry Road. Those infected with the disease are between their late 40s and early 80s. Four of them are hospitalized, according to health officials.
Legionnaires' disease is a waterborne bacteria that infect people's lungs, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The county hasn't identified the exact source of this particular outbreak, but the bacteria is common in Oregon, and it's often found in warm, wet areas like hot tubs, water tanks, large air conditioning, plumbing systems and other bodies of water, health officials said.
"People with Legionnaires' disease may have flu-like symptoms including fever, tiredness, muscle aches and headaches, that often progress to coughing and shortness of breath. Nausea, diarrhea and confusion are also possible symptoms," said Dr. Christina Baumann, Washington County health officer. "If you live in or frequent the affected area and experience these symptoms, please contact your health provider right away so they can determine if you have Legionnaire's and provide treatment."
While the Legionella bacteria is common in the state, outbreaks aren't as common.
"This situation is unique because we're seeing a cluster of cases coming up within a fairly narrow timeframe and also residing in a smaller area," Baumann said.
Washington County officials have reported a total of 14 Legionnare's disease cases so far this year. The county is on track to breaking the 14-case record set in 2019.
While Legionnaire's disease symptoms are similar to COVID-19, public health officials remind citizens that it's typically not transmitted from person to person, but rather through a water source.
"Annually, about 10,000 cases of legionella have been reported to CDC nationally, most often those are from waterborne sources," Baumann said. "And as we mentioned some of the common sources are from manmade systems."
The disease got its name from a 1976 outbreak at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia. Most people with a healthy immune system will not get the disease, even after breathing the bacteria. Older adults and people who smoke however are more likely to become seriously ill.
The disease can be treated with antibiotics and while most who contract the illness make a full recovery, many still need to be hospitalized and there is a small chance of death. One in 10 people die of the disease, according to county health officials.
While the investigation is still early on and there is no information on a potential source of the outbreak, health officials are asking citizens to be cognizant of any possible symptoms and seek medical care early on should they start developing symptoms.
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