Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126

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 at St. John’s Fountain Lake, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

A fourth resident at St. John’s Fountain Lake was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease as remediation efforts continued at the Albert Lea senior community in southwestern Minnesota.

The latest illness has officials baffled about the source of the outbreak.

“The exit to the cooling tower is a locked door, so this doesn’t make sense to us,” St. John’s CEO Scot Spates told the Albert Lea Tribune.

Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, was discovered during preliminary testing at the facility after confirmation of the first three illnesses. The first resident took ill in early June, the second reported to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDOH) on July 19 and the third on July 21. The fourth tested positive July 30 after remediation efforts had begun. None of the four required hospitalization.

Cleanup and testing continues
St. John’s Fountain Lake contracted Innovational Concepts, Inc., to assess the water systems and Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories to test the samples. The following actions have or will be taken:

  • The facility’s cooling tower has been tested three times.
  • The water main and water lines in the Waters Ege Independent Living building were chemically treated and water samples collected for testing.
  • The nursing home, assisted living and town center’s water were treated this week. Samples for testing have been collected.

“I feel confident that the chemical treatment … will eliminate any Legionella in the water, but we will know for certain after we have results from the lab,” Spates said. “St. John’s will continue with the drinking water restriction until all four buildings have been treated and tested.”

Lab results are expected soon.

Most water restrictions still in place
Bottled water is being supplied to residents until the facility is cleared by the remediation process. The restriction on using ice machines and water sprayers is still in place. Filters were installed on shower heads, allowing residents to resume showering.

Water lines and faucets are being flushed every other day, based on a recommendation from the MDOH. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), frequent flushing of water lines to drain stagnant areas limits the growth of organisms, such as Legionella.

St. John’s Fountain Lake, which opened last October and has approximately 100 residents, provides independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing care and short-term care for seniors.

Legionnaires’ 411

Legionnaires’ disease – also known as legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is similar to other types of pneumonia, which is an infection of the air sacs in one or both lungs that might produce fluid in the lungs. Symptoms can resemble flu-like symptoms in the following forms:

  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • high fever
  • muscle aches and pains
  • headaches
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

High-risk categories
Anyone can get Legionnaires’ disease, but people 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).

An underreported and deadly disease
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 sources
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:

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