Duke University faces Legionnaire's outbreak with 84 suspected cases amid Covid-19 scare

Just a week after 100 plus Covid cases on campus, as many as 84 attendees of a Basketball Camp at Duke University are having flu-like symptoms

                            Duke University faces Legionnaire's outbreak with 84 suspected cases amid Covid-19 scare
Staff and students at Duke University Hospital. The adult attendees who attended the basketball camp were exposed to Legionella between August 11-15 (@dukeuniversity/Instagram)

As schools and universities return to in-person classes and activities, the danger to students and staff has never been higher. With a large number of Americans yet to get vaccinated, Covid-19 outbreaks are making their way through a large number of campuses. Adding to that, Duke University found itself facing another major health scare on August 19, after it was reported around 84 people are being treated for suspected Legionnaire's disease.

The outbreak at Duke is not the first time the US has had to contend with diseases other than Covid-19. In mid-July, a man in Dallas was hospitalized with the first case of Monkeypox on US soil since 2003. Just over a week later, the CDC confirmed a major outbreak of Candida auris, a "superbug" with no known cure in Washington DC and Texas. In the first week of August, officials were forced to close parts of Lake Tahoe in California after chipmunks in the area tested positive for the plague. 


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Adding to natural outbreaks of disease, there are concerns of widespread disease outbreaks in the state of Tennessee, which recently halted all its vaccination programs for children. With the dangers of the Delta variant, thousands of Americans are at risk of severe disease. Thankfully, the Legionnaire's outbreak at Duke doesn't appear to be serious, but it underscores just how easy it is to fall sick, without adequate protection. 


Duke's health scares

The North Carolina university has made Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for all those coming to campus, a move that in hindsight paid off well. On August 16, it was reported that over 100 people tested positive, out of over 10,000 tests administered. Not only is that a positivity rate of just 1%, but the even better news is that none of those who tested positive appeared to have serious symptoms. Ninety-seven students and 14 staffers were among those that tested positive for Covid-19. 

The cases appeared to have stemmed from indoor gatherings at Durham, off-campus. While on campus, Duke has a mask mandate in place that further helps limit the spread of Covid-19. Duke is one of the several campuses to enforce a mask mandate, and have a vaccination policy. As the numbers show, it appears to be working. On August 19, the university received a second health scare, with a suspected outbreak of Legionnaire's disease


The disease is caused by the bacteria Legionella, often found in damp places. As of now, the source has been identified as the training room, since all cases have been linked to a sports camp that ran from August 11 to 15. According to the university, 84 people are being treated for Legionnaire's, after reporting flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle fatigue, nausea, and respiratory distress. The outbreak occurred at a basketball camp for adults, so no Duke students were exposed.

"Duke environmental health specialists have determined that exposure was limited to the training room, which is now closed while mitigation and cleaning efforts are underway," the university said in a statement. "No other spaces in the Schwartz-Butters Building were affected, and there is no continuing risk to employees or visitors." The disease is not contagious, and often mild in nature, so all those affected are expected to make a full recovery without putting their family or friends in harm's way.