TYLER — Harvey Convention Center is a focus of an investigation into the source of contaminated water that caused an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in East Texas that has left one person dead.
On Friday, NET Health, the local health department, also said an eighth person has been diagnosed with the disease. The original release said there were seven confirmed cases and five suspected. During the investigation, it turned out that of the five suspected cases, only one was confirmed, and the other four did not have the disease.
One person died after contracting the disease that has symptoms similar to pneumonia. All who got sick attended the East Texas State Fair in Tyler from Sept. 20 to 29.
A statement Friday addressed the people who are using Harvey Convention Center since the fair and after the fair. At this point, “NET Health has identified no evidence of any public health risk that would interrupt current or future events from occurring at Harvey Hall and its neighboring properties. Attendance at previous, upcoming or future events at Harvey Hall do not mean that a person has contracted or will contract the Legionella bacteria.”
Since the outbreak was first identified, health officials have been searching for the source of the water with bacteria. Ventilation systems, humidifiers and water from hot tubs are some of the most common sources.
The investigation is looking, among other possibilities, at water sources within Harvey Convention Center, the largest exhibit hall used during the fair.
Initial testing conducted by NET Health on Oct. 25 revealed appropriate chlorine levels were present in water samples collected in Harvey Convention Center, said Terrence Ates, NET Health public information officer.
Chlorine is one of several items used to ensure public water is safe, and is the only element that is tested within the initial sampling process.
The health department earlier put out a statement that, based on the initial test, Harvey Convention Center’s water was not believed to be contaminated. Days later, Ates said the center had not been ruled out as the source and that more testing was taking place.
On Monday, subsequent water samples were taken and sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be tested.
The health department is continuing to communicate with vendors who were in Harvey Convention Center as well as with attendees who were in close proximity to the eight people diagnosed with the disease, the statement said.
Ates said NET Health is committed to “definitively identifying the exact source of our local Legionella cases, yet we ask everyone to exercise patience with the scientific process of testing and confirming the exact source of contamination.”
NET Health will report findings of the latest tests as soon as they are available, he said.
The testing for the potability and safety of public water supplies and distribution systems is required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and performed by the local health department where the testing is needed.
Cases of Legionnaires’ disease have to be reported to the state health department. The outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease was initially announced by NET Health, which urged anyone who had been to the fair and had symptoms similar to pneumonia to see a doctor and get tested.
No information about the new victim of Legionnaires’ disease was released.
People can get Legionnaires’ disease by breathing water droplets contaminated with a bacteria. Most people who are healthy do not get the disease even when breathing in infected water vapor.
A man who worked at an information booth in Harvey Convention Center during the fair and later died from health complications, and another who operated a food concession outside the center but came inside each day of the fair, are the two people who so far have come forward as having become infected.
The man who operated the concession stand has since recovered.