The water at Westminster Towers, a senior retirement community in downtown Orlando, FL, tested positive for the Legionella bacteria, according to the Florida Department of Health in Orange County (FDHOC). Testing was performed by the FDHOC after officials were informed that a former resident of the facility had contracted Legionnaires’ disease.

An FDHOC spokesperson said the health department tested “pre-remediation” water samples, which returned the positive result.

Westminster Towers, which has more than 300 residents, commissioned Nalco Water in late July to hyper-chlorinate the water system, which raises the levels of chlorine in the water. It was the first time the company treated the community’s water system since the illness was reported in early July, according to a Nalco spokesperson.

Results from testing after the water treatment by Nalco have not been received.

Neither the health department nor Westminster Towers would provide further details about the status of the former resident.

Orlando a hotbed for Legionnaires’ in 2017

The Westminster Towers illness was the 21st confirmed or probable case of Legionnaires’ disease in Orange County this year. Also in July, two residents at Summit Greens, a 55-and-older living community in suburban Orlando, and four members at two LA Fitness clubs in the Orlando-area were infected with Legionnaires’ disease.

CDC: About 25,000 cases of Legionnaires’ annually

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur in the United States on a yearly basis. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which thrive in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments, such as cooling towers, air-conditioning systems, hot tubs, and spas, to name a few.

Complications of Legionnaires’ disease

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.

Anyone can get the disease, but those at the greatest risk of infection include:

  • people 50 or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with weakened immune systems.