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Sioux Falls Legionnaires Outbreak

Posted in Legionella,Legionnaire's disease,Outbreaks & Recalls on September 21, 2018

South Dakota is the home of the latest Legionnaires’ outbreak in the United States. The Sioux Falls Legionnaires Outbreak has currently 14 confirmed cases of the infection, and one person had died. The South Dakota Department of Health confirmed its investigation into the illnesses in people who reside in or traveled to Sioux Falls.

The health agency is asking those who live in or around Sioux Falls, South Dakota to seek medical attention if they believe they have become sick with Legionnaires’ disease. Early medical attention can help reduce the risk of long-term complications, severity, and mortality.

South Dakota Calls Upon the CDC

Due to the severity of the outbreak, the health agency has reached out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for help. The health agency told the media that South Dakota typically sees between eight and 15 cases of Legionnaires’ disease each year. With such a huge spike in cases, the agency has jumped quickly to investigate the outbreak.

“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,” said Dr. Joshua Clayton, the South Dakota state epidemiologist, in its news release. “However, it is often the case that a single source may not be found.”

Those who are ill range in age from 36 years to 80 years old.

No Source, Yet.

There is no confirmed source of this outbreak currently. Therefore, the department told the media that it is interviewing those who have reported their illnesses to try to identify potential exposures. Therefore, it is so important that those who have become sick report their illnesses to the health department.

The agency commented that it is reaching out to local businesses to help find the source. “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,” said Sioux Falls Public Health Director Jill Franken.

In the meantime, the agency’s press release confirmed, “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.”

About Legionnaires’ Disease

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia. When legionella bacteria contaminate water and someone breathes it in, they can develop Legionnaires’ disease.

What are the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease symptoms are like other types of pneumonia symptoms.  If you may have been exposed to Legionella bacteria, you should watch for these symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Fever
  • Aching Muscles
  • Headaches

Sometimes people also experience diarrhea, nausea, or confusion.

How do you get Legionnaires’ disease?

You can get Legionnaires’ disease from contaminated water from cooling towers, air-conditioning units, hot tubs, and showers.  When large buildings don’t have proper water safety measures in place, the risk to residents and neighbors for Legionnaires’ disease goes up. This means that hotels, housing complexes, and other large buildings can be affected. Legionella bacteria has also been found in fountains, swimming pools, and other man-made water sources.

The Legionella bacteria that cause Legionnaires disease live in water.  That’s why it’s important for buildings to use proper water safety measures.

Who is at the Highest Risk for Legionnaires’ disease?

People over the age of 50, smokers, the very young, and those with certain medical conditions, including weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease, COPD, asthma, or other chronic health conditions are at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease.

Can Legionnaires’ disease Kill You?

Yes.  Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal.  Legionnaires’ disease patients often have to be admitted to intensive care units.  Between 5% and 30% of Legionnaires’ disease patients die.  Nearly 50% of patients who are infected with Legionnaires disease while in the hospital die.

Even those who survive Legionnaires’ disease may experience long term complications.  In one study, 75% of survivors had persistent fatigue, 66% of survivors had neurologic symptoms, and 63% of survivors had neuromuscular symptoms.

Moreover, this is why early medical attention is crucial and highly recommended.

How do doctors test for Legionnaires’ disease?

A doctor can test you for Legionnaires’ Disease.  Doctors may first do a chest x-ray, so see if you have a lung infection.  If the chest x-ray shows a lung infection, doctors may then test your sputum (phlegm) or lung tissue. Doctors can also test urine to find antigens for legionella.

Why Legionnaires’ disease? Why do doctors call it that?

The name comes from an outbreak that happened in Philadelphia in 1976.  In 1976, a large number of people attending an American Legion convention in Philadelphia came down with severe pneumonia.  People began calling this “Legionnaires disease”.  The name stuck.  So, when doctors were able to identify the bacteria that made all of these people sick, they called it Legionella.

Can You Sue for Compensation for Legionnaires’ disease?

Yes.  You can sue a building owner for Legionnaires’ disease.  Because if the building’s water is contaminated with Legionella bacteria, and this contamination causes residents or neighbors to get Legionnaires’ disease, then the building owner is typically liable for their injuries.  Therefore, you can sue the building owner for compensation for your medical expenses, any lost income, pain, suffering, and emotional distress.

 Our Legionnaires’ Lawyer is Here to Help You

If you believe you have developed Legionnaires’ disease from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 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: Candess Zona-Mendola, Editor (Non-Lawyer)