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Legionnaires' disease - Murrayhill cluster

Public health staff collect water samples as part of Legionnaires' disease investigationDecember 15, 2021: 

Washington County closes Murrayhill-area Legionnaires’ disease investigation

The investigation centered around six cases of Legionnaires’ disease that occurred in October in people who lived within two miles of Murray Boulevard and Scholls Ferry Road. 

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by the Legionella bacteria that is found naturally in the environment and grows best in warm conditions.

Common sources include hot tubs, hot water tanks, large air conditioning and plumbing systems, fountains and water bodies. 

“While we did find the Legionella bacteria that most often causes pneumonia in a hot tub in the area, we are unable to definitely link cases of illness to this source. No additional cases of Legionnaires have been reported over the past seven weeks, so we believe there is no longer a threat to the public and are closing our investigation,” said Dr. Christina Baumann, Washington County health officer. 

The hot tub where disease investigators found the Legionella bacteria is drained and the county has instructed the owners to thoroughly clean and disinfect the hot tub before filling and using it again.  

Regular maintenance of hot tubs is important to prevent Legionella and other infection-causing bacteria from growing. This includes changing filters, frequent cleanings and making sure there is an appropriate chlorine concentration and pH level in the tub.

Most people with healthy immune systems will not get Legionnaires’ disease, even after breathing in the bacteria. Older adults, those who smoke and those who already have lung disease or a compromised immune system are at higher risk and more likely to become seriously ill. 

November 15, 2021: We have received no new reports of Legionnaires’ disease since six cases were reported in late October. People who became ill lived within a two-mile radius of the Murray Boulevard and Scholls Ferry Road intersection.

We are still investigating the disease cluster, but have not identified a common source.

We took 26 environmental samples from fountains and water features where the people who became ill reported possible exposure. We found the Legionella bacteria that most often causes pneumonia in filters in an apartment complex hot tub. Owners of the hot tub had already drained the water as a precautionary measure, so if this was a source of infection, it is no longer a threat.

“Regular maintenance of hot tubs is important to prevent legionella and other infection-causing bacteria from growing. This includes making sure filters are changed, tubs are cleaned frequently and that there is an appropriate chlorine concentration and pH level in the tub,” said Dr. Christina Baumann, Washington County health officer.

We can’t say that the hot tub in the apartment complex is a source of infection, but since the bacteria was present in the hot tub, we are working with the owner to make sure the tub is thoroughly cleaned and maintained before it is used again.

We did not detect the Legionella bacteria that most often causes pneumonia in the other water sources we tested, including in the fountains at Murrayhill Lake.  

We continue to look for other possible sources of infection and will update this page when we have more information.

See CDC page about how to prevent legionella from growing in hot tubs.

November 1, 2021: We have not identified a source of the Murrayhill Legionnaires' disease cluster. As a precaution, public fountains and water features where some of the ill people reported possible exposure have been turned off or drained. We are collecting water samples and trying to determine a source and will update this page when we have more information.

If you have symptoms of Legionnaires' disease and live, work or frequent places within a two-mile radius of Murray Boulevard and Scholls Ferry Road, contact your health care provider. 

October 28, 2021: Press release in English and Spanish