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Potentially sickening bacteria found at Hot Springs bathhouse

by Nyssa Kruse | October 4, 2019 at 4:10 p.m.
The Sentinel-Record/Tanner Newton OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Quapaw Baths & Spa reopened its water-related services on Friday after tests for Legionella bacteria came back negative.

A bacteria that can cause serious illness was found in the water at a Hot Springs bathhouse, the Arkansas Department of Health said Friday.

Legionella, a bacteria that can cause a form of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease, was detected in untreated water at Quapaw Baths & Spa.

The untreated water is separate from the drinking water system, according to the department, and the water in outdoor drinking fountains is safe to use.

The baths have remained open while state and federal health officials monitor the situation and get the spa to address the issue.

In August, the Quapaw bathhouse closed briefly after the bacteria was discovered in several areas of the spa; it reopened after a week. Three visitors to the spa in the past year had contracted Legionnaires’ disease, but a spokesman for the National Park Service said it was unclear whether those cases were a direct result of visiting the baths.

People may catch the bacteria by breathing in affected droplets of water in the air. The bacteria doesn’t cause illness in most who are exposed, the department said.

It can cause severe illness in some cases though, especially among those over 50, smokers, those with weakened immune systems or those with underlying illnesses such as diabetes or liver failure.

Symptoms usually start two to 14 days after exposure and include cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, headaches, fever, headache, confusion, nausea, or diarrhea.

The department is working with Hot Springs National Park to address the bacteria. The department encourages those who have visited the spa and believe they may be ill as a result to see a doctor and report their to the department if they are diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease.

The illness can be treated with antibiotics.

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