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While some might be led to believe that a non-contagious disease is less serious than the alternative of a highly contagious illness, Legionnaires’ is a severe disease that should never be taken so lightly. According to South Dakota health officials, a breakout of Legionnaires’ disease has not only occurred in Sioux Falls, but it recently experienced a substantial jump. The Legionnaires disease Sioux Falls Outbreak currently has 14 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in either individuals who live in or have recently traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, of which all have been hospitalized and one died.
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of lung inflammation that is usually caused by an infection that develops two to 10 after exposure to the bacterium legionella. This disease is a form of pneumonia. Essentially, the legionella bacteria tends to cause a Pontiac fever and other flu-like symptoms. It frequently manifests itself on the first day with distinguishable signs and symptoms, such as headaches, muscle pains, chills, fever exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit. By the second or third day, additional symptoms tend to occur, such as a cough that can be bloody, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and often confusion or other mental changes.
While the fever tends to dissipate on its own, if the remaining symptoms are left untreated or otherwise ignored, it can quickly develop into a life-threatening illness. Immediate treatment is highly necessary to conquer this disease as safely as possible. So, if you believe you are suffering from any stage of Legionnaires disease, seek treatment as soon as possible. According to professionals at the Mayo Clinic, you should, “see your doctor if you think you’ve been exposed to legionella bacteria. Diagnosing and treating legionnaires’ disease as soon as possible can help shorten the recovery period and prevent serious complications. For people at high risk, prompt treatment is critical.”
Professional treatment with antibiotics tends to cure the disease fairly quickly. Many cases tend to experienced continued problems after the treatment. Legionnaires’ disease majorly affects the lungs of the patient. It can also cause serious infections other wounds, and in other sections of the body such as the heart.
Fortunately, Legionnaires’ disease isn’t contagious and is unable to be transferred from one person to another via personal contact. Unfortunately, it is contracted at a far more mischievous and unpredictable way: inhaling or otherwise ingesting the bacterium legionella. If the bacteria is contaminating water droplets in the air, they are easily able to be inhaled. Then, the bacteria soon develops into a lung infection in the host. Inhaling microscopic water droplets containing the legionella bacteria cause the disease, such as the steam of a shower, faucet, or whirlpool, as well as any water that could be dispersed throughout a ventilation system. Grocery store mist machines, cooling towers, air conditioning systems, decorative foundation, hot tubs, hotel or hospital water systems, and swimming pools have all been linked to the spread of Legionnaires’ disease in the past.
Elderly adults, current or prior smokers, as well as individuals with preexisting health conditions or otherwise compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to manifesting the disease.
South Dakota is not unaccustomed to Legionnaires’ disease, with between eight and 15 cases appearing every year. However, as of September 20th, 24 people have reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease cases. This is well above the standard. The state’s epidemiologist, Dr. Joshua Clayton, explained that the Health Department specifically requested aid from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. They did this in order to investigate this most recent outbreak. The agency hopes of discovering the reason behind the substantial increase in illnesses.
According to Clayton, “The Department has requested assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide additional resources to help us investigate this increase in cases. In addition to enhanced case investigations, CDC will assist us with environmental assessments and testing to identify water sources that may contain the Legionella bacteria. However, it is often the case that a single source may not be found.”
Currently, the South Dakota Department of Health is investigating 14 cases that ill people already reported and confirmed as Legionnaires’ disease. These cases include individuals who live in Sioux Falls and also several who have traveled there as a visit. One death has already occurred, 14 hospitalizations, and the search for the source of the disease is well underway. The health department has worked on interviewing patients in order to help identify the potential exposure. They understand fully that Legionnaires’ more easily develops in hot, humid waters.
The South Dakota Department of Health formally offered a press release. They stated, “In addition to case investigations and environmental assessments, CDC will be assisting the Department to provide an education program for businesses on the proper maintenance and operation of cooling towers, hot tubs and other water features. The Sioux Falls Health Department will be coordinating outreach to local businesses.”
Sioux Falls is working alongside the health department willingly in order to get to the source of the illness. According to the Sioux Falls Public Health Director, Jill Franken, “As with past public health concerns, we are ready to assist the South Dakota State Department of Health investigate Legionella cases and to help identify opportunities to reduce risk to this community.”
Individuals over the age of 50, smokers, previous smokers, and people with certain medical problems – such as poor immune systems, chronic lung disease, and many other chronic health issues – are at a heightened risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease when exposed to the bacteria. Be sure to look out for unusual symptoms of:
Anyone living in or visiting Sioux Falls should be especially wary of any such symptoms. If you find yourself experiencing them then you should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
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)