Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
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Elliot Olsen has decades of experience representing people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease, and he has regained millions of dollars for them. If you or a family member have contracted Legionnaires’ disease in New Hampshire, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.
UPDATE, AUG. 28, 9:10 p.m.
A fifth case of Legionnaires’ disease near Ashworth Avenue was confirmed by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health Services (DPHS).
ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 28, 1:20 p.m.
Four people have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease in what is being a called a “disease cluster” in Hampton, the DPHS said. All four patients have been treated and released.
Health officials said they believe the illnesses occurred at the end of July or in early August. Officials narrowed the infectious field to an area of Ashworth Avenue between Island Path and H Street in the Hampton Beach area, which is a popular tourist destination and the busiest beach community in New Hampshire.
The DPHS recommends that anybody at increased risk for the disease should “consider postponing their visit to the area” in an abundance of caution.
“We’re interviewing people who have become infected, and we encourage anyone who may have been diagnosed with Legionella since visiting this area to please contact us,” Beth Daly, Bureau of Infectious Disease Control chief, told New England Cable News (NECN.com).
Anyone can become ill from Legionella, the bacteria that causes 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).
“Legionella is a serious infection,” DPHS director Lisa Morris said in a statement. “We want to make sure the public is aware of the potential risk of this disease so that each person can make a decision for themselves about visiting the area in the best interest of their health.”
The illnesses are categorized as a “cluster” and not an “outbreak” because the cases are linked in space and time but there is no single source. If the health department can pinpoint a definitive source – such as a cooling tower or water system responsible for spreading the Legionella – as the cause for all the illnesses, officials would then recategorize this event as an “outbreak.”
Trying to locate the source
The DPHS is investigating possible additional cases, and is considering an industrial-size air conditioning unit as the potential source.
Said Daly: “(The source is probably) a large system that includes water … spewing this bacteria out into the environment.”
Legionella 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.
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick, but it does have the ability to cause a potentially severe bacterial pneumonia and even result in death, if not identified early. Legionella is not contagious and spread from person to person.
In the past five years, New Hampshire has averaged 32 Legionnaires’ disease cases per year, according to Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist. Seeing a cluster is rare, he added.
“We have not investigated a cluster … in the last 10 to 15 years,” Chan told WMUR News 9.
Legionnaires’ disease is similar to other types of pneumonia. Symptoms can also resemble those of flu, and include:
- shortness of breath
- muscle aches
- gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
What exactly is Legionnaires’?
Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia (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 U.S. annually. However, 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.
Where do Legionella live?
Outbreaks have been linked to a number of sources, such as:
- large plumbing systems
- showers and faucets
- hot-water tanks and heaters
- swimming pools
- hot tubs and whirlpools
- decorative fountains
- mist machines and hand-held sprayers
- equipment used in physical therapy
- water systems, such as those used in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
- the cooling towers of air conditioning systems.