Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
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Legionnaires lawyer Elliot Olsen has regained millions for his clients. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires’ disease at St. John’s Fountain Lake, you might have cause to file a Legionnaires lawsuit. Please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

Less than a year after a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak struck a care facility in Albert Lea, Minnesota, the serious respiratory illness has returned.

St. John’s Fountain Lake senior community learned of a positive diagnosis of one of its residents at The Woodlands, which is the community’s skilled nursing facility. The illness is the first confirmed case since last August, after which the campus underwent extensive monitoring and remediation.

Five cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported at St. John’s between June and August last summer.

“One of the big questions is, ‘Why is this back?,’ ” St. John’s CEO Scot Spates told the Albert Lea Tribune.

St. John’s Fountain Lake, which opened in October 2017 and has approximately 100 residents, provides independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing care, and short-term care for seniors.

Extensive remediation

The facility’s remediation last year included a chemical treatment for the entire water system, as well as the installation of filters on showerheads.

Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories, Inc., a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-certified lab that handled the testing of water samples last year, and Innovativational Concepts, Inc., a water-management consultant, have again been contracted to manage the assessment and remediation efforts.

Three-pronged approach

Reps from both companies and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDOH) recently used a method called “parallel water sampling,” according to the Albert Lea Tribune. The method entails “all three entities” collecting samples from the same water sources for testing.

Samples were taken at the two water mains – one that feeds the independent living apartment and assisted living memory care building, and the other for the nursing home – as well as the water heaters, two tub rooms, and a few resident rooms. Chlorine levels also were tested at both water mains.

Preliminary test results – which could indicate the presence of Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease – are expected soon. If the results are positive, further testing will be performed, and those results wouldn’t be available until the end of the month.

Water restrictions enforced

Based on the recommendation of an MDOH epidemiologist, St. John’s immediately implemented water restrictions, instructing residents not to drink from water faucets, use ice machines, or take showers until further notice, according to Spates. Bottled water is being supplied to every apartment and resident room.

Bathing is allowed in the facility’s tub rooms or in resident’s rooms that have a bathtub. Flushing of the toilets also is permitted.

The restrictions will be enforced until the MDOH gives the facility clearance.

Legionnaires info

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 can produce fluid in the lungs. Symptoms can resemble those of the flu, such as:

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

Who is most at risk for illness?
Anyone can get Legionnaires’ disease, but those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years of age or older
  • smokers, current and former
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).

According to the 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 does Legionella infect a person?
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 several sources, such as:

  • water systems such as those used in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • showers and faucets
  • hot water tanks and heaters
  • swimming pools
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • mist machines and hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.

People also can contract Legionnaires’ disease when they “aspirate” contaminated drinking water – that is, choking or coughing while drinking can cause water to go down the wrong pipe into the lungs. That, however, is a very rare occurrence.