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Pinellas County Legionnaires Disease Outbreak

Posted in Legionnaire's disease,Outbreaks & Recalls on October 6, 2018

Another outbreak of Legionnaires disease, but this time it’s in Pinellas County, Florida. According to the Florida Department of Health, Pinellas County is investigating two cases of legionellosis from cases both apparently living in the same apartment community. While withholding information regarding the investigation and outbreak is in line with Florida statute, many people might wonder exactly how serious the disease is and if they should worry! Multiple other outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease have occurred across the United States this year, leaving multiple patients dead. Here is what you should know regarding the disease and the Pinellas County Legionnaires Disease outbreak!

Legionnaires’ Outbreaks

Two cases of legionellosis have been confirmed in Pinellas County, Florida, but per Florida statute, the state’s health department does not disclose the locations of the active investigation. Additionally, little information has been released and the department is keeping ages, gender, and the current health condition of the two sick patience secret.

Another current outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease has occurred in Washington Heights, New York, where eight people have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ within a brief five day period. Every one of these patients have been hospitalized for issues directly related to the illness, and one has been discharged already. As is common with Legionnaires’ disease, the patients of this outbreak are all middle-aged to elderly with ages ranging from 40 to 80 years old. The majority of the patients, however, were over the age of 50. Thankfully, there have been no deaths associated with this cluster of Legionnaires disease and the Health Department has been successful at locating the source of the disease: cooling towers contaminated with the legionella bacteria.

Another outbreak of Legionnaires occurred just a few months ago in the same place due to the same reason: New York cooling towers. Back in July, 27 people ended up sickened with Legionnaires’ disease, of which most were hospitalized and one died. Of the people who fell ill, the majority were over the age of 50, including the patient who died.

What Should Residence of Pinellas County Do?

Since very little information has been released about the outbreak, including the area that is affected and what the source is, Pinellas County residence are encouraged to pay attention to any and all symptoms they encounter. Flu-like symptoms are to be specifically recognized, and it is recommend that you see your healthcare provider out of an abundance of caution if you experience symptoms similar to pneumonia or influenza, such as: chills, headaches, loss of appetite, muscle aches, fever (often 104 or higher), chest pain when breathing (often due to inflamed lungs), confusion, agitation, a mucus or bloody cough, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath.

Legionnaires disease is essentially a severe lung infection, similar though more severe than pneumonia, and is treatable with antibiotics. Also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia, this disease is best treated when diagnosed early. Severe health complications and even death are likely if it is left untreated. Importantly, this disease is non-contagious, so there should be no fear of it being passed from person to person. Rather, one’s lungs are most commonly infected by breathing in water vapor contaminated with the legionella bacteria.

It’s important to note that while Legionnaires’ disease most often affects someone’s lungs, it has occasionally been known to cause infections in wounds on other portions of the body, most notably the heart. Respiratory failure, septic shock, and acute kidney failure are also known side effects of this disease. Additionally, Pontiac fever, which is a milder form of Legionnaires’ disease, might produce similar symptoms as Legionnaires’ disease, but it doesn’t affect one’s lungs.

According to research revealed via the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to the legionella bacteria occur every year in the United States alone. However, only about 5,000 cases are reported due to the disease’s nonspecific symptoms. So, Pinellas County residents should be sure to see their doctor if they encounter any flu-like symptoms!

How Do You Get Legionnaires?

As mentioned, legionella bacteria can contaminate water and can later be inhaled through microscopic water droplets in the form of mists or vapor. The bacteria grows best in warmer waters and is most often found in human-made environments – such as the cooling towers in New York. Outbreaks have been linked to more sources than just cooling towers, however, including but not limited to:

  • Water systems in apartment complexes, hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • Air conditioning cooling towers
  • Large plumbing systems
  • Hot-water tanks and heaters
  • Swimming pools
  • Hot tubs
  • Showers and faucets
  • Mist machines
  • Decorative fountains
  • Physical therapy equipment

Another way that people have been known to contract Legionnaires disease is through aspiration of contaminated water. “Aspiration” is what happens when one chokes or coughs while drinking water, leading to small bits of water “going down the wrong pipe” and into the lungs.

People who are 50 years old or older are far more likely to get Legionnaires’ disease than those who are younger. Smokers – current and former – are also at a heightened risk for contracting this disease. Heavy alcohol drinkers, those with chronic lung disease, and sufferers of a compromised immune system are all at a higher risk of getting Legionnaires’ disease. If you or your loved one fits into any of these former categories and then begins showing signs of Legionella pneumonia, be sure to see a doctor immediately.

Conclusion

Small amounts of information have yet to be released concerning Legionnaires’ disease in Pinellas County, but that doesn’t mean residence cannot protect themselves from the threat of this bacteria. Pay attention to your health, look for any signs or symptoms, and be sure to contact your healthcare provider out of an abundance of caution if you believe you have Legionnaires’ disease.

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: Abigail Ryan, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)