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Gershen Apartments Legionnaires Outbreak

Posted in Legionella,Legionnaire's disease,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on August 21, 2019

Gershen Apartments, a senior housing complex for seniors and people with disabilities, is under the microscope after 3 cases of Legionnaires disease were confirmed at the facility within the past 13 months. The New Jersey Department of Health is working on the investigation centered around environmental safety at the Alvin E. Gershen Apartments in Hamilton, specifically probing at bacterial concerns. Here’s what you need to know about the Gershen Apartments Legionnaires Outbreak:

Legionnaires disease is a severe form of pneumonia. It causes lung inflammation and is often lethal, especially for those who are at more risk of contracting it. These individuals include people who are 50 years or older, smokers and heavy drinkers, anyone with weakened immune system and those who suffer from an underlying medical condition like chronic lung disease.

As most of the people living in the apartments are elders, the outbreak is an alarming situation for the whole community.

Case History:

In November 2018, DOH confirmed one case of Legionnaires in the apartments. Further investigation revealed that Gershen apartments had Legionella bacteria in their potable water systems.

On November 28, 2018, the apartment management informed the residents of the building that one tenant has contracted Legionnaires’ disease. “We regularly test and treat water in the building,” Gershen said in the letter. They ensured that the management is working with the New Jersey Department of Health and Hamilton Health Department to treat the water in the building.

Since then, 2 additional cases of Legionnaires has been confirmed. The latest case of Legionnaires was diagnosed on August 7th. 87-year old Elizabeth Plumeri is very serious and may die due to the infection, according to her family members.

“We are not certain she is going to survive, which is scary.” said Mary Plumeri, victim’s daughter. “Even if she does survive, she has a long road ahead.” Just around a week back, they were talking about her living to 100 and then this happens, she added. Her mother is currently hospitalised at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton. She is battling Legionnaires’ disease and sepsis.

The family plans to sue Gershen Apartments as bacteria scare continues to grow. “We are getting a lawyer, believe me, because they are not going to do this to people and get away with it.” sais Mary Plumeri. She also accused the management of ‘elder abuse’ and said enough is enough.

She also added that the tenants are very upset. Mary Plumeri lives on the West Coast but has a brother, Michael Plumeri, who lives in Hamilton township. “My brother went to the apartment yesterday to get my mother’s mail. They are telling tenants that there is no Legionnaires’ disease.”

Mary has tried to get a hold of someone in the Gershen management team without any success. “We are getting a lawyer. We are absolutely going to sue them, because my mother is very ill now.” she said adding that it’s not just about her mom, but also for everyone else in the building as well.

In the meantime, other tenants are living in the fear of Legionnaires disease. “The building has been following public health recommendations related to treatment of their water,” said Dawn Thomas, spokesperson of New Jersey Department of Health via email.

“It is not known whether these residents contracted the illness at this building. It is the Department of Health’s standard protocol to initiate an investigation following the identification of two or more confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease associated with the same building within 12 months of each other.” Thomas added.

Legionnaires’ disease usually develops 2-10 days after exposure. Some of the first symptoms that develops are coughing, headaches, muscle pain, weakness, chills and fever. After a day or two, mental confusion, chest pain and gastrointestinal symptoms develop as well. You should contact your healthcare provider immediately. This reduces the risk of complications and ensures faster recovery. Treatment is done through antibiotics. Most legionnaires’ patients will be hospitalized.

Advice to Greshen Apartment residents in Wake of Gershen Apartments Legionnaires Outbreak

If you are a tenant, employee or a recent visitor at Alvin E. Gershen apartment facility, New Jersey and experiencing flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately. Inform them you were at a building with a Legionella outbreak. This will help with quick diagnosis and assist with the investigation.

As Legionnaires spreads when someone inhales the mist contaminated with the bacteria, it’s important that you reduce any activities that results in mist formation – both hot and cold.

  • Consider taking a bath instead of a shower, since a shower could create a water mist. Try to minimize your time in the bathroom while the tub is filling.
  • It is fine to brush your teeth, wash your hands or wash dishes, but fill the sink slowly to avoid creating mist.
  • It is fine to drink cold water from the tap but start with cold water when heating for tea, coffee or cooking. You cannot get Legionnaires disease by drinking water.

Similar outbreak in New Jersey:

Back in May, a senior apartment complex in Newark, Nevada Street Apartments, was the site of a Legionnaires outbreak that sickened 3 people.

However, this Legionnaires outbreak isn’t the only thing that Hamilton Department of Health has to deal with. According to a local official, inspections of 332 of the 509 Hamilton retail food establishments are pending. This, along with the outbreak, has put the health department in major limelight to take serious actions as soon as possible.

Mystery Source of the Outbreak:

It is possible that the tenants could have contracted the disease outside the apartment, but many including Mary Plumeri strongly believe that the source is the complex itself due to confirmed presence of Legionella bacteria.

The Gershen Apartments is a rent-based low-income elderly and special needs housing complex subsidized by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. They are managed by Moderate Income Management Company Inc. With three confirmed cases of Legionnaires at the apartments, it will likely remain under scrutiny for many more months to come.

The Lange Law Firm

Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by contaminated food or water.  When corporations cause food poisoning outbreaks or Legionnaires disease outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable.  The Lange Law Firm is the only law firm in the nation solely focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits and Legionnaires disease lawsuits.

If you were infected with Legionnaires disease in this Gershen Apartments Legionnaires Outbreak and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we can help.  Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at 833.330.3663, or send us an e-mail here.

By: Pooja Sharma, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)