The Randolph County Health Department has advised Cross Road Retirement Community in Asheboro, NC, to take precautionary measures after a former and current resident tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease, according to news reports.

The former resident tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease after moving out of the assisted-living facility, but it’s believed that the patient contracted the disease while still living at the facility, due to the timing of the illness. A patient in the Alzheimer’s care unit also has tested positive for Legionnaires’, which is a severe type of pneumonia.

It has not been positively determined that the residents contracted the disease at the facility, but water tests have been performed to determine whether Legionella bacteria are present in the system. Legionella are bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease. The facility also has contracted with an independent contractor to perform an assessment and remediation efforts.

Cross Road officials said water restrictions have been implemented at the facility, and 600 gallons of water and six portable hand sinks have been provided. A memo sent to residents includes the following instructions:

  • Use bottled water for drinking, rinsing the mouth, brushing teeth and shaving.
  • Use of sink water should be avoided until residents are told otherwise.
  • No showering with or bathing in the non-potable water. Sponge-bathing is allowed, though care should be taken to avoid splashing. Non-potable water should not be used to clean open skin wounds.

This is the first time the facility has faced an issue with Legionnaires’ disease since opening in 1983.

Should Cross Road residents be concerned?

Legionnaires’ disease – also called Legionellosis or Legionella pneumonia – is a respiratory disease caused by Legionella bacteria. The bacteria also can cause a less serious infection called Pontiac fever, which has symptoms similar to flu.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are primarily found in human-made environments. Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, such as:

  • water systems, like those used in hospitals and care facilities
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • swimming pools
  • showers and faucets
  • cooling towers in air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • equipment used in physical therapy.

Residents and even recent visitors to the Cross Road facility who are exhibiting pneumonia- or flu-like symptoms should seek immediate medical attention from their primary health-care provider.

Symptoms to watch for

Legionnaires’ disease is very similar to other types of pneumonia (lung infection), and symptoms may exhibit in the following forms:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • muscle aches
  • headaches.

Individuals at increased risk

Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. Individuals who meet any of the following criteria are at higher risk:

  • people 50 or older
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • current or former smokers
  • people with cancer, diabetes, kidney failure or liver failure, or chronic lung disease.