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Life in Washington DC can be enthralling given the vast range of employment opportunities and countless leisure activities on offer. Home to the best museums in the nation, the list is endless for reasons to move to the city. People that have chosen Washington DC for retirement are now facing up to a health crisis. The nation’s capital is struggling with an outbreak of legionnaires’ disease that is doing considerable damage at a Northwest Washington DC retirement community. The DC Department of Health announced a DC Legionnaires Outbreak to the public with the Ingleside at Rock Creek Retirement Community being the affected site of the outbreak. Two people have been diagnosed with the illness so far and the Department of Health is working tirelessly to manage the outbreak and do their best to avoid further infections. Extra caution is being advised by authorities as residents are still at risk.
Legionnaires’ illness is relatively unknown in the U.S. Unfortunately, it is gaining more media attention and time in the news given the rise in cases recently. The facts behind the outbreak of legionnaires at Ingleside are still being established by the authorities. There are two known cases of legionnaires illness and DC health officials are currently on the ground collaborating with stakeholders to effectively bring this perilous situation under control. Stakeholders include DC Water and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC states that legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by a bacteria that can thrive in buildings with complex water systems like hotels and long-term care facilities. Preliminary measures imposed include full water restrictions for Ingleside until filters are changed and installed on sick faucets and showers. These precautionary measures are being steadfastly implemented to manage the spread of bacteria through water. This step is crucial to ensure that more people do not become infected. Further, residents of three buildings in Ingleside have been instructed to take necessary precautions when using the water supplied. The executive director at Ingleside released the following statement; “Currently, Ingleside is under a water restriction as there are two confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease. We truly care about the health and well-being of our residents and have taken steps to ensure that preventive measures are in place. We are working with DC Water and the DC Department of Health to investigate the cause.
The outbreak at Ingleside shows the potential for water facilities to become infected thus spreading legionnaires’ illness. Early investigations from DC Water reveal that the city water supply is safe. A spokesman from DC Water states that “we can assure District residents that this issue is isolated to the facility and that the drinking water DC Water distributes to the general population is safe“. DC Waters expertise in water management and keeping the residents of Washington DC safe are being tested by this outbreak as water supply samples have been taken from Ingleside. Doctor Sasha McGee, senior infections disease epidemiologist at DC Health reveals that “it has to be water that’s a mist of a vapor so you actually inhale it. Filters are going to be installed in shower and sink units so they can safely use the water. Until those are installed there are water restrictions so they aren’t using the water and being potentially exposed to the mist that they can breathe in and become sick”. Tests on the water have been conducted and stakeholders are patiently waiting for the results. These results will determine the scale of the outbreak and the potential for further infections.
Ingleside is a luxury retirement home targeting the high-end parts of society. An ethos of “engaged living” allows guests to enjoy their final years and relax in comfort. The website of Ingleside proudly boasts that “the community includes retirees from the Foreign Service and the Department of State, former educators from the highest levels of academia, writers and musicians and successful entrepreneurs, all with a common view of elegant living in retirement”. The elderly at Ingleside are particularly vulnerable to infection given their old age. With immune systems weakened, the defenses to fight the illness are limited. Consequently, the highest standards of safety must be maintained in the water facilities at the retirement home. A duty of care towards guests must be upheld at all times thus requiring constant cleaning and regular maintenance of water systems. Executive Director of Ingleside Frank Beech describes that; “Ingleside continues to provide ample supplies of water to all residents and is installing water filtration units in every resident apartment. DC Health has authorized with the CDC that Ingleside at Rock Creek residents can use their dishwashers, washers and dryers”.
Water is fundamental to the legionnaires outbreak at Ingleside given that the illness is spread through contaminated water. People can become infected through breathing in a mist or vapor containing legionella bacteria. For example, inhaling infected hot water vapor from a shower or sink are common causes of legionnaires. This bacteria can be found in building water systems with bacteria especially thriving from hot water. Symptoms of the illness include headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, shortness of breath and fever. Most healthy people do not become ill after becoming exposed. DC Health officials state that infection is almost never transmitted on a person-to-person basis. Further, not everyone who is exposed to the bacteria gets sick. Vulnerable people include elderly, smokers and people with weakened immune systems. These people are at risk to infection given the weakness of the body to fight back. Symptoms of infection usually occur two days after infection with the legionnaires infection treated by health professionals with antibiotics. The disease can be deadly and kills around 1 in 10 patients infected. Around 50 people were infected with legionnaires’ disease in 2017 in the DC area. Already this year, there have been 40 cases in the district.
If you believe you have developed Legionnaires’ disease, we want you to know that a Legionnaires’ Lawyer at the Lange Law Firm, PLLC is currently investigating this matter and offering free legal consultations. Our lawyer, Jory Lange became a lawyer to help make our communities and families safer. Our firm already represents several families in the first Washington Heights outbreak.
If you or a loved one have become ill with Legionnaires’ disease, you can call (833) 330-3663 for a free consultation or complete the form here.
By: Billy Rayfield, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)