There has been one confirmed death associated with the Legionnaires' Disease outbreak in Minnesota.
Doug Schultz – an information officer for the Minnesota Department of Health – says an elderly person who'd been diagnosed with the bacterial infection died.
"We are not saying Legionnaires' caused the death," Schultz says.
Schultz explains that elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems or other underlying health conditions are more likely to develop a severe case of the disease.
"So it is possible that the person who died, besides being elderly, had some other risk factors," according to the information officer.
More cases confirmed
The number of people diagnosed with this severe form of pneumonia is up again.
Just last week, there were nine confirmed cases in Hopkins. As of Thursday, Schultz says there have been 14. Those people sickened by the respiratory infection range in age from their 20s to their 90s.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Legionella bacteria – which causes the disease – is mostly spread through contaminated water droplets. So if a hot tub is contaminated and someone breathes in the mist, they could get the disease.
So far, officials don't know exactly what's making people sick.
"We identified a number of possible sources in the few days following identification of the cluster," Schultz explains.
Previously, Schultz said that businesses in the area had agreed to flush their water systems with chlorine to get rid of bacteria.
Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia characterized by fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, mental confusion, diarrhea, and vomiting, the Health Department says.
It can be treated with antibiotics. The CDC says about 1 in 10 patients with Legionnaires’ disease will die from complications of the illness.
Those at greater risk of getting sick with the disease include people older than 50, smokers, people with lung disease, and those with weakened immune systems.