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 Mount Carmel Grove City, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

The Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at Ohio’s Mount Carmel Grove City hospital was traced to the facility’s hot water system and likely was the result of inadequate disinfection, the health system’s parent firm said.

At least 16 patients at the suburban Columbus hospital have been diagnosed with the potentially deadly form of pneumonia, which is caused by inhaling Legionella bacteria in the form of mist or vapor.

One patient – Deanna Rezes, 75, of Grove City – died on June 2. Another filed a lawsuit against the hospital system this week.

The Legionnaires outbreak was announced May 31, a mere month after the seven-floor, $361 million hospital opened. Patients who contracted Legionnaires were exposed sometime between April 27 and May 31, according to Dr. Tammy Lundstrom, chief medical officer for Trinity Health, the hospital’s Michigan-based parent company.

Hot water system:
Restrictions lifted

Water-use restrictions were put in place that prevented patients from showering and forced them to drink bottled water. Those restrictions were lifted late last week after more than 2,000 temporary water filters were installed at the 210-bed hospital. The water system also was flushed and over-chlorinated.

Mount Carmel Grove City’s long-term plan to prevent further Legionella issues is in place and includes extensive testing and a secondary water-treatment system, which constantly adds a small dose of disinfectant into the water.

Portions of the hospital’s water system were disinfected in February, and other areas were disinfected in April. The areas that were disinfected in February weren’t done again before the hospital opened, said Tim Keane, a Legionella expert and consultant for the hospital.

Hot water system:
First case May 15

The first case of Legionnaires’ disease was reported to Mount Carmel Grove City officials on May 15, Lundstrom said. Within a week, there were three possible cases associated with the hospital.

Because those who got sick weren’t in the hospital during the entire two-week period in which the disease develops, Lundstrom said they were considered “possible cases.” The hospital alerted Franklin County Public Health (FCPH), and “then as these things evolved, we determined we had an outbreak occurring with the facility,” Lundstrom said.

As for whether Mount Carmel should have made a declaration of an outbreak before May 31, at which point there were seven confirmed cases, Lundstrom said the health system followed the guidelines in place for investigating individual cases. It also relied on the health department to make that decision, she said.

“It’s not uncommon to see sporadic cases that have nothing to do with being in a health-care facility,” Lundstrom said.

Legionella is naturally found in water but can become problematic when it spreads into a building’s water system and spreads to shower stalls, faucets, drinking fountains, and ice machines.

Franklin County had the highest number of Legionella cases in Ohio in 2018.

Hot water system:
About Legionnaires

Anyone can contract Legionnaires’ disease, but those at the greatest risk of infection include:

  • people 50 years old or older
  • smokers, current and former
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages.

After the disease has been diagnosed, if the patient is not already hospitalized, then hospitalization is almost always necessary. In the most severe cases, complications like the following can occur:

  • 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 blood stream 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.

Hot water system:
Disease symptoms

Legionnaires’ disease usually develops two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella, and it frequently begins with the following symptoms:

  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • chills and fever.

By the second or third day, other 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 in other parts of the body, including the heart.