A senior living community in Dallas is taking action to prevent a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak after a resident was sickened, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Highland Springs in Far North Dallas is treating the water in two of its buildings after being notified of a positive Legionnaires’ disease test by the Collin County Health Care Services (CCHCS), according to a Highland Springs spokesperson.

The hot-water system in both buildings is being inspected and treated with a hyper-chlorination technique, according to the spokesperson. The building where the resident was sickened also was given water restrictions.

The residents in the affected building have been provided bottled water for cooking and drinking, and filters were installed in the showers. Normal water use throughout the community will resume once the CCHCS has given its approval.

The existence of Legionella bacteria found during testing was at low to “inconclusive” levels. Legionella is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.

Residents of Highland Springs were notified of the situation via written statements, town hall meetings and communication with staff.

About Highland Springs

Highland Springs, which opened in 2006, is located at 8000 Frankford Road in Dallas. It’s an 89-acre continuing care retirement community that offers adults age 62 and older independent living, assisted living, memory care, post-acute rehabilitation, and skilled nursing care, and includes an on-site medical center and in-home care by a licensed private duty nurse.

Residents, staff or visitors to Highland Springs who are exhibiting pneumonia- or flu-like symptoms (see below) should seek immediate medical attention from their primary health-care provider.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – 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 each year, but only 5,000 cases are reported because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Ten percent of those who become infected with Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.

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 found primarily in human-made environments.

Outbreaks have been linked to a number of sources, such as:

  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • mist machines and hand-held sprayers
  • the cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • water systems such as those used in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • decorative fountains.

People also can contract Legionnaires’ disease when they “aspirate” contaminated drinking water – that is, choking or coughing while drinking can cause water to go down the wrong pipe into the lungs. It is also possible to contract the disease from home plumbing systems. Both of these, however, happen very rarely.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can get Legionnaires’ disease, but those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years of age or older
  • smokers, current and former
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).

What are the symptoms?

Legionnaires’ disease is similar to other types of pneumonia (lung infection). Symptoms can resemble flu-like symptoms in the following forms:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • muscle aches
  • headaches
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.