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Legionnaires lawyer Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for clients. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires at the Hastings hospital in Michigan, you might have cause to file a lawsuit. Please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department (BEDHD) and Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital announced that efforts to remove Legionella bacteria from the Hastings hospital’s water system in Hastings, Michigan, have been successful.

The Hastings hospital’s water system tested positive for Legionella in late December after an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease sickened two in three months, and resulted in the death of a 92-year-old man.

Legionnaires – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection caused by Legionella infection. The bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. If it is not diagnosed early, it can lead to severe complications and even become deadly.

Remediation underway

The Hastings hospital’s water system was tested twice a month for the first two months of the year, and all results have been clear of Legionella (there is one more test scheduled for March). Monthly tests will be performed in April, May, and June as well, and the BEDHD will continue to monitor those results.

The man who passed away was diagnosed with Legionnaires in November, treated for the disease, and then discharged to a rehab center, where he died from “chronic aspiration pneumonia,” according to Dr. J. Daniel Woodall, medical director of BEDHD, who said at that time that it’s “not possible to determine if (the patient’s death) was linked to Legionnaires’ disease.”

The other patient sickened by the disease was treated for Legionnaires in September and recovered. It’s unknown whether their illness was hospital-acquired.

Bottled water dispensed

After the initial discovery of the bacteria in the water system, bottled water was supplied to patients, staff and visitors, and hospital officials installed filters on faucets and showers.

In addition, a monochloramine water treatment unit – which is a disinfecting system combining chlorine and ammonia (known as “chloramine”) and commonly used as an alternative to free chlorine for disinfecting drinking water – was installed as a long-term solution for the facility’s private water system.

Spectrum Health Pennock is working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to obtain the required permits and approvals to operate the secondary treatment system, according to health officials.

“The health and safety of our patients, community, and employees is of utmost importance to us,” said Angie Ditmar, Spectrum Health Pennock president, to “We acted quickly when we learned of the problem, and we are committed to making sure the water remains safe and clean.”

BEDHD officials say they do not believe the City of Hastings water supply was the source of the Legionella. According to BEDHD’s press release: “Routine daily required bacteriological sampling within the city’s water system is being performed. Nothing of concern has been reported or is currently being reported in the Hastings municipal supply.”

Legionnaires info

A 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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.
About 25,000 annual cases

According to the CDC, an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (scientific name: 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.
Disease complications

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 the 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.

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