Washington County Public Health asks Murrayhill-area residents to look out for Legionnaires’ disease

For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 28, 2021

Sponsored by: Health and Human Services Department, Public Health Division

Washington County Public Health is investigating six cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the Murrayhill area of Beaverton. The cases were reported within the last week in people who live within two miles of Murray Boulevard and Scholls Ferry Road. The people range in age from late 40s to early 80s; four have been hospitalized.  

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.  

The county has not identified the source of the cluster and is alerting the public so people in the area can be proactive in identifying cases quickly and get treatment.   

“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 Legionnaires and provide treatment.” 

The disease, which got its name from a 1976 outbreak at an American Legion convention, can be successfully treated with antibiotics. While most people make a full recovery, many need to be hospitalized. One in 10 people with the disease will die. 

People are infected by breathing in droplets from a contaminated water source. Unlike COVID-19, person-to-person transmission is extremely rare.  

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.  

Washington County Public Health is interviewing people diagnosed with the disease and employees of local businesses and housing complexes to try and determine if there is a common point of exposure. Public Health is also working with Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to collect samples and perform testing to link the cases to each other and to possible exposure sources.  

Because the bacteria are so common in the environment, these investigations are difficult and time consuming. Washington County will provide updates as more information becomes available.   

For more information about Legionnaires’ disease, see this CDC page or download the CDC flyer.  

Media Contact:

Mary Sawyers, Division Communications Coordinator
503-726-6459
mary_sawyers@co.washington.or.us