In an effort to track down the source of a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak, the Riverside County, California, Department of Environmental Health temporarily closed down a number of aquatic facilities in Palm Springs and surrounding areas this March.
The outbreak took place between the fall of 2021 and early 2022. Health officials confirmed 20 cases including 14 hospitalizations and two deaths: one a riverside resident and the other a visitor.
According to a press release, the source of the illnesses and the extent of the spread has not yet been determined.
A total of 8 bodies of water were closed at the Palm Springs Tennis Club. The county has directed the Palm Springs Tennis Club to contract with an ELITE lab to draw samples from water and test for Legionella, the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires’ Disease. The timeline for reopening depends on the results of the samples.
“If negative, they can open up immediately. If positive, they remain closed until remediation (disinfection) is completed and sample results come back negative,” said Dottie Ellis-Merki, deputy director of the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health.
The county also temporarily closed the following aquatic venues:
• Mesquite Country Club phIV (pool and spa #14), 2701 Mesquite Ave. in Palm Springs.
• Sunkist Villas, 411 W. Arenas Road in Palm Springs.
• WorldMark Cathedral City, 67-707 30th Ave. in Cathedral City.
• Canyon Club Hotel, 960 N. Palm Canyon in Palm Springs.
• Desert Sun Resort, 1533 N. Chaparral Road in Palm Springs.
• Skylark Hotel, 1466 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.
Ellis-Merki said a number of other facilities also closed voluntarily to test for Legionella, but a list was not available.
Legionnaires’ Disease is a waterborne illness that can result in cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, headaches, and sometimes death. Exposure occurs by breathing contaminated aerosolized water, a condition occasionally found above the surface of a poorly maintained pool or more often spa. It can take up to two weeks for symptoms to develop.
Generally, healthy people do not get Legionnaires’ Disease even after exposure. Risk factors include being a current or former smoker, having a weakened immune system, or having chronic lung disease.