Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
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Legionnaires lawyer Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for clients. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires’ disease at Christmas Mountain Village, you might have cause to file a lawsuit. Call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that sickened three, killing one, over a 12-month span at a Wisconsin resort has sparked an investigation by health officials.

Sauk County Health Department (SCHD) director Tara Hayes confirmed that Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, were found at Christmas Mountain Village, a golf and ski resort in Wisconsin Dells. Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of bacterial pneumonia  that is contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor containing Legionella.

“There is no determination tying the death or illness to the presence of Legionella at Christmas Mountain,” Hayes told Capital Newspapers.

The only commonality between the three people who were sickened, however, was that they all visited the resort.

“We had received a report that some individuals contracted Legionnaires’ disease, so that prompted us to do an investigation with Christmas Mountain,” Hayes said. “During that investigation with the sampling of the water, there have been some units that have tested positive for the Legionella bacteria.”

The first case was reported to the SCHD in November 2017, and the health department identified Christmas Mountain Village as a possible source since the patient had recently visited the site. The facility tested positive for Legionella at that time, according to Hayes.

More recently, two more cases with ties to Christmas Mountain Village were recorded within two weeks of one another in October of last year.

No additional information regarding any of the three patients was released, so neither the timing of the death nor the condition of last October’s victims is known.

Why is this an outbreak?
The terms “outbreak” and “cluster” are used when multiple cases are reported in or around the same proximity and within a designated period. The term “community-acquired” is used when there are no commonalities; these kinds of cases are the most common.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would classify these illnesses as an “outbreak” because two or more cases of Legionnaires’ disease was reported within weeks of each other and occurred in a more limited geographic area – meaning officials were able to identify Christmas Mountain Village as a possible source.

“It was our understanding (via the health department) that there have been multiple cases reported across the region, in which only three cases reported to the health department are from guests that have stayed at the property within the last 24 months,” according to a statement released by a spokesperson for Bluegreen Management, the management company for the property. “There is no conclusive evidence that they contracted the Legionella bacteria during their stay at the property.”

Remediation efforts are underway at the facility and include installing “point of use” filters on every fixture at the resort. Those filters are believed to be 99 percent effective in eliminating exposure to harmful bacteria.

“Our guests’ safety is our number one concern,” the Bluegreen statement read. “We are working closely with the Sauk County Health Department and implemented a recommended risk-reduction measure in addition to ongoing water management and remediation.”

Bacteria problem for Wisconsin resorts?
Christmas Mountain Village wasn’t the only resort in Wisconsin to have Legionnaires issues in 2018. Four people were diagnosed with the disease at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake between March and August last year. After learning of those illnesses, two locations on the property were tested in September and came up positive for elevated levels of Legionella.

According to Anna Kocharian, an epidemiologist with the Bureau of Communicable Disease of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), the five-year average of confirmed Legionnaires cases in Wisconsin is 135, and the DHS conducts about five Legionella public health investigations every year.

About Legionnaires

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

The bacteria, which thrive in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments, such as:

  • air-conditioning system cooling towers
  • large plumbing systems
  • water systems of large buildings (hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, etc.)
  • 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.

Legionnaires complications
Anyone can get the disease, but those at the greatest risk of infection include:

  • people 50 or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with weakened immune systems.

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe cases, complications can occur; they include:

  • respiratory failure: caused by changes to the lung tissue, or oxygen loss in arteries supplying the lungs.
  • septic shock: this can occur when Legionella produce toxins that enter the bloodstream and cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to loss of adequate blood supply to the organs.
  • kidney failure: those same Legionella toxins can damage the kidneys’ ability to eliminate waste from the blood, resulting in kidney failure.
  • endocarditis: an infection of the inner lining of the heart that can affect the ability of the heart to maintain adequate blood flow through the body.
  • pericarditis: swelling of the pericardium, which is the primary membrane around the heart. This can also affect the ability of the heart to circulate blood throughout the body.

Legionnaires 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.