Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
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Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires at Promenade at University Place, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

Legionnaires’ disease claimed the life of one person and sickened another at an assisted living facility in suburban Albany, New York, that had issues with Legionnaires when it was a hotel.

The Albany County Department of Health confirmed that two people were infected by Legionella – the bacteria that causes the lung disease – at Promenade at University Place, located on Route 20 at 1228 Western Avenue in Guilderland. The facility opened in late December after previously being the site of a Best Western Sovereign Hotel.

When the facility was a hotel, it battled issues with Legionnaires’ disease from 2010-12, during which time 19 people contracted the disease. In 2012, the hotel’s remediation efforts included replacing a 40-year-old water heater, installing new water pipes, and replacing shower heads.

County health officials, who learned of the outbreak about a week ago, are working with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), to determine the cause of the illnesses in the 200-bed assisted living facility, which currently has 23 residents. Preliminary environmental water testing returned “positive results for Legionella,” according to county officials.

“The testing was done the same day we became aware of the second case,” Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, county health commissioner, told the Albany Times Union. “The facility has been responsible. They have been proactive in installing new shower filters and providing bottled water for drinking and assistance with any bathing methods to really make sure they aren’t putting additional residents at risk.”

Staff at the facility notified residents and their families of the confirmed cases. “We’ve taken immediate action to address the matter and make sure that we stay at the forefront of the safety of our residents,” said facility CFO Paul Belitsis, who would not confirm a death had taken place, according to the Times Union. “We’re openly communicating with them.”

Area familiar with disease

Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks have affected the region in recent years. In 2016, 18 people in the Saratoga Springs area were sickened by the disease, including two who died. Many of those who took ill were connected to the Wesley Health Care Center, where five Legionella-contaminated sources were discovered. There were no other local sources identified, even though several of the individuals sickened had not visited or been connected to the facility in any way.

About Legionnaires

An estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms. A 2015 CDC study stated that “75 percent of (Legionnaires’ disease) acquired in health-care settings could be prevented with better water management.”

Most people exposed to Legionella do not get sick, but people 50 years old and older – especially those who smoke or have chronic lung conditions – are at a higher risk.

Other people more susceptible to infection include:

  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages.

This list also includes anyone with an immune system weakened by:

  • frequent and recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, meningitis or skin infections
  • organ inflammation and infection
  • blood disorders, such as low platelet counts or anemia
  • digestive problems, such as cramping, appetite loss, diarrhea, and nausea
  • delayed growth and development.

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe Legionnaires cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.

Possible bacteria sources

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which thrive in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments, such as:

  • water systems of large buildings (hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, etc.)
  • large plumbing systems
  • air-conditioning system cooling towers
  • hot-water heaters and tanks
  • bathroom showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • whirlpools and hot tubs
  • physical-therapy equipment
  • mist machines and hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.

Warm, stagnant water provides ideal conditions for growth, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). At temperatures between 68 degrees and 122 degrees Fahrenheit, the organism can multiply. Temperatures of 90 degrees to 105 degrees are ideal for growth.

Disease symptoms

Legionnaires’ disease usually develops two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella bacteria. It frequently begins with the following signs and symptoms:

  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • chills
  • fever, which can be 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

By the second or third day, other signs and symptoms develop, including:

  • cough, which can bring up mucus and sometimes blood
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • confusion and other mental changes.

Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart.

A mild form of Legionnaires’ disease — known as Pontiac fever — may produce signs and symptoms including a fever, chills, headache and muscle aches. Pontiac fever doesn’t infect your lungs, and symptoms usually manifest within two to five days.