Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
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Attorney 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 contracted Legionnaires’ disease in Lowell, you might have cause to file a lawsuit. Call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

Four cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been confirmed in Lowell, MA, according to the Lowell Department of Public Health.

Officials said they are confident the cases are not connected to the outbreak in Hampton, NH, which has sickened 15 people, one of whom died. Hampton is approximately 40 miles northeast of Lowell.

“There are individual cases that have come up in the city,” Brendan Flynn, Lowell’s deputy director of finance health and human services, told the Lowell Sun.

While it’s not known whether the four cases are connected, Lowell health officials said the public is not believed to be at risk. No information was released on the four victims.

Officials: No risk to public
Temperatures in the area have been unseasonably warm – there have been 56 days in the 80s and 90s this summer. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), the warm, humid weather conditions “support the growth of the Legionella bacteria.”

The MPDH could not confirm the Lowell cases but said that isolated or sporadic cases of Legionnaires’ do not pose a public health concern.

Positive tests for Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia, which is a severe type of lung infection – are automatically and electronically reported to the state, prompting a public health investigation with the reporting provider.

The MPDH works with local boards of health on every reported case to identify possible sources of exposure. If multiple cases occur, the MPDH will investigate to see if the cases are connected, which could signify the existence of an outbreak or cluster.

Lowell woman beats Legionnaires’ – again
Lisa Cosseboom, 49, of Lowell, told the Sun this was her second go-round with Legionnaires’ disease. The first occurred nearly a decade ago.

She went on to say that she suspects she might have contracted Legionella – the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease – from a hot tub. Hot tubs are the focus of the Hampton outbreak’s investigation, but Cosseboom said had not been to Hampton.

“When I was there (in the hospital), I heard other patients with it,” said Cosseboom, who has been discharged. Her symptoms included a fever, chills, vomiting, and diarrhea.

“I’m feeling OK now,” she said. “I hope to be back to work on Monday.”

Warm, humid weather at fault?
In a 2017 interview, Laura Cooley – MD, MPH from the Respiratory Diseases Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – called Legionnaires’ disease “an emerging disease in the sense that the number of recorded cases of Legionnaires’ in the United States continues to increase.”

Cooley said the increase in cases is due to a rise in the susceptibility of the population – that is, more and more people are on immunosuppressive medications. She also suggested, as the MPDH pointed out, that because warmer temperatures create the right conditions for bacterial growth, there could be more Legionella in the environment.

Seventeen of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001, according to analyses by both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The four warmest years on record have all occurred since 2014, with 2017 being the warmest non-El Niño year ever.

This year is shaping up to be the fourth-hottest year on record. The only years hotter were the three previous ones.

Legionnaires’ primer

According to the CDC, an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the United States. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Ten percent of people 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.

Legionella sources
Outbreaks and clusters have been linked to a number of sources:

  • water systems, such as those used in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • 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.

High-risk categories
Anyone can become ill from Legionella, but those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years of age or older
  • smokers, both 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. Symptoms can even resemble those of flu, which is why it often goes under-reported. Symptoms include:

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