Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Legionnaires lawyer Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for clients harmed by the disease. If you or a family member got sick during last year’s Hampton outbreak, you might have reason to file a Legionnaires lawsuit. Call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

State health officials in New Hampshire released a final report on the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Hampton last summer, concluding that there were 49 “confirmed, probable or suspected” cases of the disease, including two fatalities.

The total is a far cry from the original count of 18 cases and one death announced last September by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The outbreak came to light last August when two people from Massachusetts were diagnosed with Legionnaires’s disease, which is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection (also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia) caused by Legionella bacteria. The infectious bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor.

DHHS officials traced the outbreak to a hot tub at The Sands Resort at Hampton Beach. Other locations were investigated, including the Harris Sea Ranch Motel, but officials found no evidence to suggest the outbreak began anywhere but The Sands.

Evidence points to hot tub

There were no additional cases after The Sands’ hot tub was shut down by the DHHS.

“The inadequate maintenance of The Sands Resort hot tub – as well as other conditions within the facility, such as low hot water temperatures – may have favored the growth of Legionella bacteria,” the 103-page report concluded. “Legionella bacteria were detected in nearly half of the environmental samples collected at the hotel, with six samples from the hot tub having the same strain of Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1 as was found in respiratory specimens from two people with confirmed Legionnaires’ disease who stayed at The Sands Resort.”

There were 34 confirmed illnesses and an additional 15 suspected cases, 14 of which were classified as “probable.” Patients ranged in age from 3 years old to 88.

The majority of cases – nearly 70 percent – involved people who had lodged at The Sands within 14 days of developing symptoms (15 did not). All reported walking past or being within proximity of the hotel.

The outbreak was the first reported outbreak of the disease in the past 15 years in New Hampshire. The DHHS received an average of 32 reports of legionellosis each year from 2013 to 2017, with most cases occurring in July and August.

The outbreak was investigated by the DHHS, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the town of Hampton.

At least eight people sickened during the outbreak have already filed suit against The Sands Resort.

Oversight lacking

Hospitals and nursing homes are required to bolster control of building water systems and medical equipment that could expose patients to harmful Legionella bacteria. There is, however, little regulatory oversight of apartments, hotels and other non-medical buildings.

“There’s not a lot of people checking up on a hotel, a condominium or a large building,” Olsen told USA Today for an article published recently. “I am not aware of any oversight really at any level.”

Legionnaires primer

According to the CDC, an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the U.S. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments.

Where do Legionella live?
Outbreaks have been linked to several sources:

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

What are the symptoms?
Legionnaires’ disease develops anywhere from two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella. Symptoms frequently begin with the following:

  • severe headache
  • muscle aches and pains
  • chills
  • high fever, which can be 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

By day two or three, other symptoms develop, including:

  • coughing, which often brings up mucus and sometimes blood
  • difficulty breathing, also known as dyspnea
  • chest pains
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea
  • 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.

Who is most at risk?
Anyone can become ill from Legionella, but those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years of age or older
  • smokers, both 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).