1 dead, 55 sickened in North Carolina Legionnaires' outbreak

North Carolina health officials are investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that has killed one person and hospitalized 55 others. 

As of Sept. 30, health officials have reported 97 confirmed cases in 16 counties. Five cases occurred in residents from out of state. Afflicted individuals are between 37- to 90-years old, and more than half are male. 

While the exact source of the outbreak is unknown, many people who contracted the disease visited the N.C. Mountain State Fair in Buncombe County from Sept. 6-15. Officials are investigating airborne droplets from water rides as a possible cause, Kelly Haight Connor, a  spokesperson for the state health department, told CNN Sept. 26.

"As a precaution, anyone who attended the N.C. Mountain State Fair and is experiencing cough, fever or shortness of breath, is advised to call their healthcare provider right away," the state health department said. More than 170,000 people attended the state fair, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

Legionnaires' disease is a lung infection contracted when water droplets containing Legionella bacteria are inhaled. The disease can be treated with antibiotics, but 10 percent of people who contract Legionnaires' die, according to the CDC. Since 2000, the rate of reported Legionnaires' cases has risen by 550 percent.

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