Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
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Two residents at a Northwest Washington retirement community were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease within a day of each other, according to the DC Department of Health.
The patients reside at Ingleside at Rock Creek Engaged Living, DC’s only not-for-profit, continuing-care retirement community. According to its website, the community includes retirees from the Foreign Service and the Department of State, former educators from the highest levels of academia, writers, musicians, and successful entrepreneurs, all with a common view of elegant living in retirement.
Information on the patients’ conditions was not made available.
DC Health is working with DC Water and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine how the infection occurred.
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria, which is contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor (for example, inhaling the hot water vapor from a shower or a sink sprayer hose).
“We can assure District residents that this issue is isolated to the facility and that the drinking water DC Water distributes to the general population is safe,” DC Water wrote in a statement.
Everyone who comes in contact with the bacteria does not get sick, but anyone can become sick from Legionella infection. Those most susceptible to illness from the bacteria include:
- people 50 years old or older
- smokers, current and former
- people with chronic lung disease (COPD)
- heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
- people with compromised immune systems
- recipients of organ transplants
- people on specific drug protocols (for example, corticosteroids).
Water restrictions instituted
“Currently, Ingleside at Rock Creek is under a water restriction, as there are two confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease,” according to a statement from Ingleside at Rock Creek executive director Frank Beech. “We truly care about the health and well-being of our residents and have taken steps to ensure that preventive measures are in place.”
The Ingleside staff are supplying bottled water to all residents and – under the advisement of DC Health and the CDC – have instituted full water restrictions until filters can be installed on the showers and sinks to eliminate the spread of Legionella. Dishwashers and washing machines have been cleared for use.
In 2018, there have been 40 recorded cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the District. In 2017, there were approximately 50.
Do you have these symptoms?
If you live or work in the Ingleside at Rock Creek facility or travel in the vicinity of the retirement community, located at 3050 Military Road NW, you should be overly cautious. If you are feeling sick, it’s recommended you see your health-care provider immediately out of an abundance of caution.
Legionnaires’ disease symptoms are similar to those of other types of pneumonia, and they can even resemble those of influenza (flu). Those symptoms include:
- difficulty breathing
- muscle aches
- gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Legionnaires’ disease, also known as legionellosis or Legionella pneumonia, is treatable with antibiotics. If not diagnosed early, however, the disease can lead to severe complications and even become deadly. It is not contagious; that is, it cannot be passed from person to person.
One in 10 patients infected with Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.
More Legionnaires info
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia (lung infection). According to the 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.
Where do Legionella live?
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:
- 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.