PHHS details precautions for Cherokee Indian Fair considering State Legionnaire’s Outbreak

by Oct 4, 2019NEWS ka-no-he-da


Special to the One Feather


During the N.C. Mountain State Fair, an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease was discovered. Since that Fair, the latest confirmed cases of the disease, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Resources (NC DHHS), have reached 116 with 1 resulting in death. A total of 65 percent of those infected have had to be hospitalized. The NC DHHS has not confirmed that the source of the outbreak is the Mountain State Fair, but so far it is the most common link between those diagnosed with Legionnaire’s Disease. Many of the fairs scheduled in North Carolina for the month of October are taking precautions to ensure the safety of visitors to their fairs. According to WLOS news, the WNC Agricultural Center has cancelled a major event for the weekend starting Oct. 4 as a precautionary measure.  

The One Feather contacted the EBCI Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) to ask what precautions were being implemented for the Cherokee Indian Fair, which starts on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Dwayne Reed, PHHS Environmental Health and Safety manager, provided the following statement:

This is the plan that PHHS has formulated to assess and monitor for Legionella at the Cherokee Fair.

  • The Public Health and Human Services Division (PHHS) is working closely with the Cherokee Fair Events Coordinator and county health department to assure that the Fairgrounds are safe.  The bacteria that has sickened over 100 people at the Mtn. State Fair (Legionella, which causes Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever) could be linked to the site of the Mtn. State Fair or to a traveling vendor.  The illness can be caused by aerosolized water, that is, water that gets into the air as a spray, mist, or shower.  PHHS is going over a list of Cherokee Fair vendors who may have water features–such as hot tubs, tabletop fountains, misting stations, or cooling equipment that sprays water—that could be sources of Legionella.  PHHS and the county health department will be working with the Cherokee Fair Events Coordinator to find, inspect, and prevent possible sources of the bacteria. 
  • PHHS checked with Cherokee Fire Department on their plans to use water at the fair.  They have no plans to use water at the fair.
  • PHHS will work closely with Fair staff and the county health department to find and deal with possible sources of the bacteria at the Fair.
  • PHHS will be handing out information about Legionella, Legionnaires’ disease, and Pontiac fever to vendors and Fair visitors.
  • After the Fair is over, PHHS will check Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority (CIHA) and WNC counties for any signs of unusual lung illness that might be caused by Legionella for two weeks.
  • For more information about the outbreak or about how PHHS is working with Fair staff and neighboring counties to keep the community safe, contact PHHS 359-6180.