New source identified in North Port Legionnaires' disease outbreak

North Port, Fla. (WFLA) - A North Port community was terrified after a Legionnaires' outbreak. Now, health officials have identified a second source of the potentially deadly disease.

Last month, residents say 11 people from the Islandwalk at the West Villages were rushed to the hospital for Legionnaires' disease. It’s a severe form of pneumonia that could be fatal.

Now the question is, where did it come from?

"It makes me nervous. It makes me worried,” said one resident.

Officials from the Florida Department of Health investigated and determined the disease likely came from the pool and spa.

They've just announced the legionella bacteria was also found in the fitness center's water heater.

"Because the temperature of the water heater was lower than it should have been, it's not surprising that we did find it there,” said Environmental Health Director Tom Higginbotham.

Health officials do not believe the maintenance staff were negligent.

"I don't believe so, legionella is ubiquitous in the environment, it's everywhere. It can grow in a hot water that is not properly maintained…this was a low use hot water heater that wasn’t serving any showers, just hand sinks, so I don’t see any negligence at this point,” said Higginbotham.

Health officials have not seen any new cases in nearly a month so they believe the threat has been stopped.

They add the water heater is being replaced and the spa and pools have been thoroughly sanitized.

But one resident is still leery of bringing her granddaughter back to that pool.

"We were excited to go into the pool, now no matter what happens, I will absolutely not let her get into the pool,” the resident said.

Health officials can't stress enough that it's important to properly maintain your water heater. 

“Hot water heaters should be kept warm enough, around 140 degrees, to prevent an environment that is favorable for the growth of legionella,” explained Higginbotham.

It’s also equally important to maintain your hot tubs and pools. 

If you suspect your community pool or spa is not being maintained well, contact management or reach out to the Florida Department of Health.

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