In Sioux Falls South Dakota, the State Department of Health is investigating fourteen confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease. This includes individuals who live in or have recently traveled to Sioux Falls. Fourteen people were hospitalized, ranging from thirty six to eighty years of age. One person died. As of September 20 of this year, twenty four cases have been reported in South Dakota. The South Dakota state health department has asked for assistance from the CDC in their investigation. No source of the outbreak has been identified to date. Legionnaires Sioux Falls cases appear to possibly be on the rise.
Recent Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ Are Cause for Concern
In addition to the Sioux Falls outbreak, three more cases of confirmed Legionnaires’ have appeared at Summit Commons Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Providence, Rhode Island. The cases were diagnosed and confirmed between August and early September, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health. The bacteria appear to be localized, and like the Sioux Falls cases, no source has been determined. The additional assistance of the CDC will most likely help in determining the source in both instances.
Following is a synopsis of the most recent outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease:
- New York City (July 2018). In the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, twenty seven people became sickened, according to the New York City health department. Twenty five were hospitalized, and one death occurred. The source of the outbreak was determined to be a cooling tower located near the neighborhood.
- Cleveland, Ohio (July 2018). A church in Parma, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) was the site of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ at a parish church center there. Eleven parishioners were sickened, with ten hospitalized and one death. Although the church’s cooling towers were sampled, the Legionella (the bacterium responsible for Legionnaires’ disease) was not found. The investigation continues into the source, and the church has seemingly been ruled out as a cause of the illnesses.
- Palm Springs, California (July 2018). On July 4th, the California Department of Environmental Health closed down the swimming pools at a retirement community in Palm Springs after samples collected revealed the presence of Legionella. Two of the residents became ill with symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease. The pools were closed until sometime in August.
- Detroit, Michigan (May-July 2018). Legionnaires’ disease was reported on the college campus of Wayne State University. The cooling towers that serviced the Faculty Administration Building, Scott Hall, and the Cohn Building were identified as the sources.
- McHenry County, Illinois (June 2018). Nine residents of this Illinois county were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease between July 7 and July 1, according to the McHenry County Department of Health. The individuals who became ill were between the ages of forty six and eighty two.
- Columbus, Ohio (June 2018). Two military veterans suffered symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease after they both visited a Veteran’s Administration ambulatory care center near Columbus. Subsequently, five more individuals complained of Legionnaires’ disease.
- Honolulu, Hawaii (June 2018). Four patients in a Honolulu hospital were diagnosed in June. One patient died. Subsequent to reported cases, the hospital implemented water restrictions as well as water system testing for Legionella.
- Laughlin, Nevada (March 2018). Although two cases of Legionnaires’ disease were confirmed in two people staying at the same casino here, it wasn’t until mid-June that the hotel was notified of such by health officials. The cases arose in November of 2017 and March of 2018. The hotel casino posted a survey on its website to inquire as to symptoms of the disease. They also disinfected their water systems and updated their water management plan.
- Sarasota County, Florida (February 2018). Thirteen individuals were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ in late February following a Florida health investigation. All thirteen individuals had been in the spa and pool area of a single-family home community in the town of North Port. Legionella was discovered in the water heater for the pool area fitness center.
- San Antonio, Texas (February 2018). A water heater was the suspected source of an outbreak that affected a total of three staff members at Brooke Army Medical Center. Two became infected last summer. The third staff member was diagnosed in early February at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
What is Legionnaires’ Disease?
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that occurs when a person inhales the Legionella bacteria. However, many more individuals are affected by a second type of this bacterium called Pontiac fever, named after an outbreak of acute respiratory problems that affected employees and visitors in a health department in Pontiac, Michigan. Individuals are far more likely to suffer Pontiac fever than Legionnaires’ disease. According to representatives from the Mayo Clinic, respiratory systems were prominent in both outbreaks, but pneumonia was not observed in Pontiac, and there were no fatalities. Twenty nine of one hundred and eighty two people, however, who suffered from Legionnaires’ disease died.
Legionnaires is frequently contracted by breathing in air droplets or mist that contains the Legionella bacteria. It affects almost 5,000 people each year in the United States, and occurs worldwide. Even though L. pneumophila (the actual name of the bacterium) is susceptible to the deleterious effects of chlorine, the chlorine is not as effective in high-temperature water such as is found in hot tubs or heated pools. The bacteria thrive in this kind of environment. Temperatures between 68 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for the multiplication and spread of the bacteria.
Risk Factors for the Disease
Many individuals can be exposed to the Legionella bacteria and suffer no ill effects. However, people who are most at risk of contracting the disease or experiencing severe symptoms are:
- Individuals Over 50 Years of Age: The disease is more likely to affect those over 50.
- Existing Health Conditions: Smokers, patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and those with lung cancer are at highest risk. Smoking causes lung damage, increasing the susceptibility to lung infections.
- Immunosuppression: Individuals with diabetes, kidney disease, leukemia, and those undergoing chemotherapy treatments are at greatest risk because of weakened immune systems. Also included are those individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS, and corticosteroid medications taken to prevent organ rejection following a transplant.
- Lifestyle Factors: Heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk, and there is some thought that suggest cannabis use may even increase susceptibility.
A combination of the above risk factors of course, produced the highest probability of 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: Kerry Bazany, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)