Only a month after a new Legionnaires’ disease death was reported in the Flint water crisis, another case of the deadly respiratory illness was announced at a nursing home in Flint, according to multiple news reports. The disease was reported last week to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) is investigating a case of Legionnaires’ disease at Heritage Manor Healthcare Center, a senior services and aged-care facility. The patient’s condition, gender and age were not reported due to patient confidentiality. The GCHD also cannot confirm whether the individual was hospitalized.

The source of the infection has not been identified, and the health department has directed the facility to install filters on all faucets and shower heads.

Death in December

At the end of December, Karenise Westbrook, 52, died from the same Legionella bacteria strain as one of the victims in 2015. Individuals living near Heritage Manor, and recent visitors or employees who may be exhibiting symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, should immediately contact their physicians.

Legionnaires’ symptoms 

Legionnaires’ disease looks like other forms of pneumonia or even flu, which is why so many cases go unreported every year. Early symptoms can include:

  • chills
  • fever (can be 104 or higher)
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing, called pleuritic chest pain (due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and blood
  • diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath.

The incubation period – the amount of time between contracting the bacteria and developing symptoms – is usually 2 to 10 days and can be as much as 16 days.

Who is at risk

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

  • people 50 years old or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • organ-transplant recipients
  • individuals following specific drug protocols (for example, corticosteroids).