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 contracted Legionnaires’ disease at Summit Commons, you might have cause to file a lawsuit. Call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

Three cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been confirmed at a Providence, RI, health-care facility where Legionella bacteria were detected, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).

The illnesses occurred between mid-August and early September at Summit Commons Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, which is located at 99 Hillside Avenue. Elevated levels of Legionella were indicated during testing after the illnesses were diagnosed.

“What happens is, unfortunately, when we see a lot of cases of Legionnaires’ disease, it tends to be in assisted-living facilities and nursing homes,” Joseph Wendelken, RIDOH public information officer, told WPRI 12 News. “You have a very vulnerable population.”

Who is most at risk?
Anyone can contract Legionnaires’ disease, but people most susceptible to infection include:

  • anyone 50 years of age or older
  • smokers, both current and former
  • anyone with a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an umbrella term that includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and sometimes asthma
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • anyone with a compromised immune system
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • anyone on a specific drug protocol (corticosteroids, to name one).

Because of health privacy laws, no additional information on the patients was released. In addition, Wendelken said the bacteria that caused the illnesses is localized, and the wider public is not at risk.

Remediation efforts underway
In a letter addressed to residents, family and visitors, Summit Commons outlined its remediation efforts to eradicate Legionella. The facility has:

  • installed special water filters on all sinks and showers;
  • handed out bottled water for drinking;
  • given bed baths to minimize the risk to residents;
  • treated the water system with chlorine to remove Legionella from the building;
  • and conducted several rounds of water testing to evaluate the remediation efforts and identify sources of bacteria.

“The health and well-being of our residents is always our primary concern, and thus we feel it best to take these steps to ensure their well-being,” a Summit Commons official wrote.

Second nursing home hit
Summit Commons is the second Rhode Island care facility in two months to report a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak. In August, Saint Elizabeth Manor, a skilled nursing and rehab center in Bristol, confirmed two cases of Legionnaires’ disease. Saint Elizabeth Manor is approximately 20 miles from Summit Commons.

Last year, there were about 50 cases of Legionnaires’ disease across the state of Rhode Island.

Residents, employees, and visitors to Summit Commons who recently have suffered from or are currently exhibiting pneumonia- or flu-like symptoms (see below) should seek immediate medical attention from their health-care provider.

Legionnaires FAQs

What is Legionnaires’ disease?
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, which also can resemble the flu, include:

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

How prevalent is the 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.

How are Legionella contracted?
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.