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Two known Legionnaires’ patients were in the same part of Harvey Hall

‘It’s got to be in that building’
Updated: Nov. 14, 2019 at 11:30 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A vendor at the East Texas State Fair who says he was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease says he isn’t included in the statistics released by the Northeast Texas Health District.

Bob Brown, of Marble Falls, said he fell ill the final day of the fair.

“They sent my medical records up there, proof that I had it, and the only reason I had a concern about it, is because I looked the other night to see if there were any updates and there were still only 7,” Brown said by phone Thursday. “And I said well, what’s going on? That’s impossible, because that 7 [diagnosed] and 5 [possible cases] number came out before I even knew I had it.”

Brown, his wife and a friend were at a booth outside Harvey Hall, but Brown says he often went in the building through the west entrance to cool off in the hall or use the restroom.

It was during one of those trips that Brown said he saw Ruben Gutierrez asking people if they were registered to vote. Gutierrez died Nov. 8 from complications related to Legionnaires’ disease that officials say he contracted while working in Harvey Hall.

“I remember seeing that guy, my wife does too, in the booth thing there,” Brown said. “That right there ought to tell you it’s got to be in that building.”

The first round of samples collected by the NET Health Disease Surveillance Division was tested by the CDC in Atlanta. No Legionella bacteria were found, according to Terrence Ates, spokesman for NET Health. Results from a second round of testing have not been released.

The City of Tyler declined an interview, but released this statement:

“The City of Tyler continues to partner with NET Health and comply with any investigation needs they have requested. Additionally, we have confirmed with them that there is no evidence of any public health risk that would interrupt Harvey Hall from continuing to host events at this time.”

Both Brown and Guitierrez spent time in the western side of Harvey Hall, near two hot tub displays, an overheard air conditioning vent, and restrooms - all of which now seem menacing following Brown’s diagnosis.

The fair ended on a Sunday, Brown said, and by Tuesday he was at a Tyler emergency room. There he was diagnosed with pneumonia, given antibiotics, and declined to be admitted. He wanted to go home, he said.

“Which I got back here on Thursday and my wife took me to the hospital, the emergency room here, immediately,” Brown said.

Brown said he was hospitalized for several days and it wasn’t until his wife happened to mention their Tyler visit to a friend that they learned about the Legionnaires’ outbreak.

Brown called Net Health on a Saturday, and says he received a call from a woman in Temple who works for Texas Health and Human Services. He said both entities asked him “a zillion questions” and advised him to get tested for Legionnaires.

Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, was found in his urine, Brown said. His medical records were sent to Net Health, he said, and to the state.

“The other two people that were with me, my wife and a friend of ours, they didn’t get it. I have a slight case of COPD and I’m 67 years old,” Brown said. “My lungs are probably a little weaker than most. But that’s the only thing I can think of as to why I got it.”

Recovery has been slow for Brown, who says his pulmonary doctor told him that five days of recovery are needed for each day of illness.

“It’s going to take me at least a month maybe longer to get completely over it. I’ve got most of my stamina back, but I still get winded when I try to walk a fair distance,” he said.

Through it all, he’s keeping his sense of humor.

“Everything that I ate there, drank there, I can’t even look at right now. I mean, I was sicker than a dog,” Brown said, chuckling a bit as if he still can’t believe how sick he had been. “I don’t want to go back to Tyler, it’s not one of my favorite places anymore.”

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