MARTINEZ — A hot tub at a Richmond day spa was the likely source where bacteria grew and caused a Legionnaires’ disease breakout that killed two people and sickened at least two more earlier this month, health officials said Monday.
The Contra Costa Health Services Department began investigating the Zen Day Spa at 12230 San Pablo Ave. on Aug. 4. The deaths occurred on Aug. 3 and 4, health officials said during an online news conference Monday.
Both people who died became ill days after visiting the spa.
Health officials in a statement released Monday afternoon said lab tests confirmed two other people who visited the business became ill with Legionnaire’s disease. They recovered, as did two others who reported becoming ill after visiting the spa and whom investigators suspect of having had the disease.
Officials said they don’t anticipate any more cases stemming from the spa.
“At this point, we do not believe there is in an ongoing risk to the public,” Deputy Health Officer Dr. Meera Sreenivasan said. “The disease can’t be transmitted from one sick person to another. It needs conditions that allow the bacteria grow.”
She added that the process also needs for the legionella bacteria form into microscopic water droplets that are then inhaled.
Sreenivasan said the incubation to inhale those microscopic water droplets “is 7-10 days, but it can be 14 days. (August 18) was 14 days since the spa was closed. It’s possible someone could have become sick at the end of last week and is only presenting it now. But we’re certainly not anticipating any other cases.”
Health officials said they were not identifying the two dead or the other four people, in accordance with medical privacy laws.
Inspectors from the county’s environmental-health unit later found no records that Zen Day Spa ever had a permit for a spa or pool. The business closed the affected hot tub on Aug. 4 and shut down the entire business voluntarily on Aug. 5, according to health officials.
Testing on water and swab samples collected from the Richmond spa showed high levels of legionella bacteria, health officials said.
“Most public pools and spas have to have disinfection equipment,” said Kristian Lucas, the county’s assistant director of environmental health programs. “This spa is not one that we would’ve issued a permit, because it was a residential one and did not have the proper disinfection system. It was unable to provide an appropriate level of disinfection, ultimately leading to the (legionella) bacteria that was found inside.”
The department also issued an abatement order declaring the business a public nuisance and ordering it to contract for professional cleaning of the affected space within 30 days. The hot tub must also be removed and disposed within those 30 days, and the the health services department said it would have to approve any reopening of the business after they reinspect it.
Health officials said they’ve contacted more than 30 recent customers of the Zen Day Spa, as well as recent cases of Legionnaire’s disease reported through community healthcare providers.
Legionella bacteria exist in natural freshwater environments and can pose a health risk when they enter human settings like spas and pools, according to the health services department. People become infected when breathing in contaminated water droplets. Those most at risk include people over 50, past and present smokers, and those with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems.
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