The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in June 2016 that the number of Legionnaires’ disease cases that were recorded in the United States between the years 2000 and 2014 more than quadrupled, increasing from 1,127 to 5,166.* Outbreaks both big and small are becoming more frequent on a yearly basis, as evidenced by these reports from 2016:
- January: A Fresno, CA, nursing home resident died after contracting Legionnaires’ disease.
- February: An individual case of Legionnaires’ disease was reported in Moravia, NY, at the Mill Stream Court Apartments.
- May: The Hawaii Department of Health investigated one possible and two confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in guests who stayed at a hotel in Kapaa in late April to early May. Both confirmed victims recovered.
- June: Two people were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease after staying at a condominium resort in Ocean City, MD. The resort had installed a water disinfection system in April because two other guests had been diagnosed with the disease after staying there in October 2015, but the Legionella bacteria was still discovered in the water system. … Three guests at a hotel in Blowing Rock, NC, were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease between April 15 and June 15, and all three were hospitalized. … Four residents of a personal-care home in Middletown, PA, tested positive for Legionella, and one died.
- July: Two cases of Legionnaires’ disease were confirmed at an apartment complex in West Harlem, NY. (Note: The announcement came less than a year after New York City’s largest Legionnaires’ disease outbreak occurred in the south Bronx, infecting 108 and killing 10.)
- August: Two residents of the Ussery-Roan Veterans Home in Amarillo, TX, contracted Legionnaires’ disease. Both recovered.
- September: Twenty-three cases – including one fatality – were reported in Hopkins, MN, and were attributed to a cooling tower at Citrus Systems, Inc. … An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease infected four patients at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, resulting in the death of two. A 32-year-old woman who recovered sued the hospital. … In Marietta, GA, four cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported at Cobb Lockheed Martin’s facility, confirmed over the course of a year.
- October: Six individuals from Chaves County in New Mexico were confirmed with Legionnaires’ disease, and two of the victims died. No cause of the outbreak was determined. … Eight cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported at the La Quinta Inn in Memphis, TN.
- December: An LA Fitness in Long Island, NY, temporarily closed its pool and spa for testing and remediation after two members were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. Both victims recovered.
Incidents of Legionnaires’ disease typically rise during warmer weather, but as this list shows, the disease has become a year-round problem. Perhaps the tide can be stemmed in 2017.
* The number of actual cases of Legionnaires’ disease is thought to be about 25,000 per year, simply because of the preponderance of unreported cases, which are due primarily to the nonspecific signs and symptoms. According to medscape.com, accurate data is not available due to the “underutilization of diagnostic testing.”
Sources: hcinfo.com, CDC.com, legionella.org, mayoclinic.org, medscape.com