HOPKINS, Minn. (KMSP) - The Minnesota Department of Health has identified the likely source of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Hopkins. A set of cooling towers at Citrus Systems, Inc. has been identified as the source. The business is located at 415 11th Avenue South in Hopkins.
Citrus Systems released this statement,
We are fully cooperating with the Minnesota Department of Health’s investigation to ensure that there is no further exposure risk moving forward. Out of respect for that process we will not be making any additional comment at this time. We can confirm that we have a robust water management plan in place.
Citrus Systems Inc. is a beverage and juice manufacturing facility. The health department emphasized that the products made and packaged at the Citrus facility in Hopkins are not affected by, nor involved in, the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The water system used to produce beverages at the plant is entirely separate from the system used by the cooling towers.
Lab testing showed the strain of Legionella bacteria found in one of the cooling towers matched the strain of bacteria in samples taken from patients connected to the outbreak.
“The lab testing is highly specific and provides us with great confidence that this tower is the source of infection,” said MDH Deputy State Epidemiologist Richard Danila.
MDH says the two cooling towers were chemically cleaned and disinfected on Sept. 27.
“Although it’s been more than 14 days since the tower was sanitized and since our last case, which is beyond the typical 10-day incubation period for Legionella, it’s still possible we could see an additional case if someone were exposed on Sept. 27,” Danila said. “It often takes time for cases to present for care and be tested. However, we believe the source has been identified and remediation has occurred.”
The outbreak sickened a total of 23 people. 17 of those people were hospitalized and one person died. The last case became ill on Sept. 22 and according to the MDH, no other cases have been reported.
There is no evidence that Legionella bacteria entered the Citrus plant, and no Citrus workers were among the patients involved in this outbreak.
According to the Minnesota Department of health, Legionnaires' disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila, which is found in water. The disease is not spread person-to-person, but by inhaling fine spray or aerosols from water that contains the bacteria.