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Legionnaires disease cases on the Rise

Posted in Legionnaire's disease,Outbreaks & Recalls on September 22, 2018

Legionnaires disease cases are on the rise in the United States. There are several outbreaks happening as we write this article. Because of this rising concern, we are bringing the latest outbreak news.

Legionnaires’disease cases on the Rise. Where are the Recent Threats Occurring?

Over the past few days, South Dakota and Rhode Island health officials are reporting a rise in the number of reported Legionnaires’ disease cases.

Sioux Falls Outbreak

South Dakota State Health Department officials are investigating a wide-reaching community outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Sioux Falls area.

State Health Department spokespersons released a report on September 20, 2018, confirming 14 cases of Legionnaires’ disease that have occurred since February of this year. The report verifies all 14 individuals were hospitalized and one person has died from the disease. All those affected were between the ages of 36 to 80 years-old, with the average age around 57.

According to the State’s Health Department records this week’s 2018 findings show a 280% increase compared to this time last year. Typically, South Dakota only records between eight to 15 cases annually. So, with three more months left in 2018, South Dakota is already paralleling the national rise of Legionnaires’ disease cases this year.

Consequently, South Dakota State Health Department officials have requested assistance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for additional resources to help investigate this increase in (Legionnaires’ disease) cases.

Rhode Island’s Outbreak

Another state affected is Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) this week reported three confirmed cases in Providence.

A letter addressed to “residents, family and visitors” from management at the Summit Commons, a rehabilitation and health care center and managed by Athena Health Care Systems, disclosed all three reported cases were residents of the center.

The letter assured patrons the Rhode Island Department of Health reported the outbreak. Then, the health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the facility had begun safety measures.

A spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Health said all three reported cases had been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease within the last 30 days. The spokesman for Summit Commons stated in his letter the health agency has contained the Legionnaires’ disease bacteria, and therefore, it was no longer a threat to the general public.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Modern scientists and physicians gave the Legionellosis bacterium the nickname “Legionnaires’ disease.” Scientists originally named it Legionella pneumophila. In 1976, an outbreak of this sometimes-deadly disease occurred in Philadelphia among a large group of American Legion members who were attending a state convention.

Because of the scope and size of the Philadelphia outbreak, and the unappealing technical name, it has kept its more common name, Legionnaires’ disease.

The CDC describes Legionnaires’ disease as a “very serious type of pneumonia caused by the bacteria, Legionella.”  Symptoms can include:

  • coughing,
  • headaches,
  • high fever,
  • muscle aches,
  • loss of appetite, and
  • shortness of breath.

The CDC website warns anyone who begins showing Legionnaires’ disease symptoms to see a doctor immediately. And inform medical personnel if they have – been using a hot tub, spent any nights away from home, or stayed in a hospital in the last two weeks prior to their medical visit.

How is Legionnaires’ Disease Spread?

Legionella bacteria lives in fresh water. So, the bacteria will grow in water that building maintenance has not properly managed. Without knowing it, a person can breathe in the bacteria through contaminated water droplets or even a fine mist. Because of this, a person may or may not become infected after breathing in the contaminated water.

Experts state in the US 8,000 to 18,000 people will develop Legionnaires’ disease each year. Oddly, an unknown number of people can become infected every year with the disease. Besides that, some will have no symptoms at all or only suffer mild symptoms.

Statistics have proven Legionnaires’ disease cases can occur intermittently or in outbreaks throughout the year. Most happen in the summer or hotter months. CDC officials report people cannot spread the disease to other people.

Experts warn that the dangerous bacteria live in complex water systems found in big buildings, hospitals, hotels and cruise ships. Hence, the CDC states the best sources of contaminated water are manmade water features. These can include showers, cooling towers associated with larger than normal air conditioning systems, water fountains and especially hot tubs.

Education Programs Needed

Also included in the recently released information from the South Dakota Health Department was the current efforts to assist the CDC to make available education programs for business in the areas affected.

Therefore, the CDC education programs provide businesses information concerning the best ways to maintenance cooling towers, hot tubs and other water features which might be high in Legionella bacteria. Plus, the South Dakota Health Department is initiating outreach opportunities to its local business. So, this is in an effort to stop the bacteria breeding grounds.

The Rhode Island Health Department has been working with the Summit Commons Center to also correct any, and all avenues where the dangerous bacterial might be living.

Summit Commons officials have installed specific water filter systems. These are located in showers and sinks at the facility. Likewise, they also have supervised the overnight treatment of their water systems with chlorine to remove Legionella bacteria from the building.

Summit Commons reports they have also been working with water management professionals and Athena Health Care’s management team to ensure resident’s safety.

Who is at risk of becoming ill with Legionnaires’ Disease?

Because most healthy people who breathe in the bacteria never become ill according to the CDC. People over 50 years of age or older with certain health risks have a higher chance of catching the disease.

Risk factors include:

  • smokers, current or past
  • having a chronic lung disease – emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • weakened immune systems from cancer, diabetes or kidney failure
  • taking medications which weaken your immune system
Can Legionnaires’ Disease Be Treated?

Yes, bacterial antibiotics which kill bacteria in the body can treat the disease. The CDC reports most people who get sick with Legionnaires’ Disease need in-hospital care. Most will fully recover. However, one out of 10 people will die from the infection.

Our Legionnaires’ Lawyer is Here to Help You

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.

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: Cindy Lockstone, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)