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.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) ordered immediate remediation efforts at The Sands Resort at Hampton Beach after Legionella bacteria were detected in the facility’s water system. The news broke shortly after state health officials confirmed two additional cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Hampton, bringing the outbreak total to 14.

Two cases of Legionnaires’ disease also were reported in Nashua, both occurring in August. State officials said the Nashua cases are unconnected to the Hampton outbreak or even related to one another. Nashua is approximately 44 miles from Hampton.

Preliminary test results returned elevated levels of Legionella – the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease – in The Sands’ hot tub, water heater, outdoor shower hose and sinks/showerheads in three guest rooms. Nine of the 14 individuals sickened were guests at the property.

The 14 illnesses, which were confirmed between June 14 and August 24, included 12 hospitalizations and the death of an elderly male.

Order to notify guests and remediate building
“I have issued this order to ensure the health of guests and visitors of the establishment, as well as the health of Hampton residents and visitors,” DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers was quoted in the department’s news release.

The order to remediate the water system and notify current or future guests of the outbreak and test results were issued under New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated (RSA) 141-C:11-16, which requires the DHHS Commissioner to take actions necessary to protect public health. The following steps were ordered:

  1. Immediately post signage notifying guests and visitors of the Legionella outbreak occurring at your establishment. This signage must be visible to all persons at all entries to the premises and at the registration desk.
  2. Immediately notify all guests at the time of check-in of the outbreak.
  3. Immediately notify all guests at the time of reservation of the outbreak.
  4. Within 48 hours of this order, hire the services of a Legionella consultant or environmental consulting firm to conduct an assessment and initiate remediation actions within 24 hours of hire.
  5. Within 24 hours of hire, have an assessment performed by the consultant and provide the DHHS with a written summary of actions taken toward remediation at least every 48 hours.
  6. Perform ongoing Legionella testing to confirm remediation and report results to the DHHS at the become available.

The order will be in effect until the DHHS is satisfied with The Sands’ remediation efforts. Further orders will depend on additional testing results and the mitigation efforts.

The Sands not the only culprit?
The Sands has not been officially cited as the only source of the outbreak. Test results are pending from other locations in the affected area, including the Harris Sea Ranch Motel, which was one of two facilities suspected by officials – along with The Sands – as a possible source.

The majority of cases stayed at or resided in the Ashworth Avenue area between Island Path and M Street. The Sands Resort is located at 32 Ashworth Avenue.

Legionnaires’ primer

Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of 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 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.

Warmer weather to blame?
Legionnaires’ disease is “an emerging disease in the sense that the number of recorded cases of Legionnaires’ in the United States continues to increase,” said Laura Cooley, MD, MPH from the CDC’s Respiratory Diseases Branch.

In a 2017 interview, Cooley said the increase is due to a rise in the susceptibility of the population, with more and more people on immunosuppressive medications. There also could be more Legionella in the environment, with warmer temperatures creating the right conditions for bacterial growth.

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 all occurred since 2014, with 2017 being the warmest non-El Niño year ever recorded.

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

Where do Legionella live?
Outbreaks 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.

Who is most at risk?
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.