The South Dakota Department of Health is investigating 14 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease that have been reported in people who reside or traveled to Sioux Falls. All 14 cases were hospitalized and 1 died. The patients are ages 36-80 years, with a median age of 57 years.

Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC
Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC

South Dakota typically sees between 8 and 15 case reports of Legionnaires’ disease each year. As of Sept. 20, 24 cases have been reported in the state this year, mirroring a national increase in cases. The Department continues to conduct in-depth interviews with patients to identify potential exposures and has notified healthcare providers in Sioux Falls of the increase in cases to aid in prompt diagnosis and treatment.

“The Department has requested assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide additional resources to help us investigate this increase in cases,” said Dr. Joshua Clayton, state epidemiologist. “In addition to enhanced case investigations, CDC will assist us with environmental assessments and testing to identify water sources that may contain the Legionella bacteria. However, it is often the case that a single source may not be found.”

In addition to case investigations and environmental assessments, CDC will be assisting the Department to provide an education program for businesses on the proper maintenance and operation of cooling towers, hot tubs and other water features. The Sioux Falls Health Department will be coordinating outreach to local businesses.

“As with past public health concerns, we are ready to assist the South Dakota State Department of Health investigate Legionella cases and to help identify opportunities to reduce risk to this community,” said Sioux Falls Public Health Director Jill Franken.