Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for clients who have been harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you are one of the Maryland transit workers who contracted Legionnaires, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

Two Maryland Transportation Authority employees contracted Legionnaires’ disease, compelling MTA officials to close the administration building at the Interstate 895/Baltimore Harbor Tunnel toll plaza.

In addition, MTA officials automated the toll booths after learning of the two cases of Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially deadly form of bacterial pneumonia. The MTA said in a statement that the two employees have received medical treatment.

Said Pete Rahn, who serves as both MTA chairman and state transportation secretary: “While there’s no confirmation that the building is the source of the illness, we believe the safety of our employees and visitors to the administration building dictates that we close the facility while tests are conducted.”

Legionnaires’ disease occurs when Legionella bacteria are inhaled in the form of microscopic water droplets, such as vapor or mist. Legionella thrive in warm water and are found primarily in human-made environments (see below).

Maryland transit workers: tolls automated

Most of the MTA employees who work at the administrative building and the toll plaza have been put on administrative leave, and some are working from other MTA sites.

The cash-payment lanes are now automated, operating like cashless toll lanes. That means that drivers who do not have E-ZPass transponders may drive without stopping, and the state will capture video of the vehicles and send bills for the toll amount.

MTA officials said they are proactively treating water systems at the site, adding that they do not know how long employees will be kept from the site.

Maryland Department of Health (MDH) statistics show that there were 361 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the state in 2018.

Maryland transit workers: difficult diagnosis

Legionnaires’ disease – also known as Legionellosis or Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that, on average, there are about 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (scientific name: Legionella pneumophila) annually in the United States. Only about 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of the disease’s nonspecific symptoms, which at the outset usually include:

  • severe headaches
  • muscle pains
  • chills and fever.

By the second or third day, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • cough, which often produces mucus or blood
  • shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • pleurisy, which causes severe chest pain (pleuritic pain)
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
  • confusion.
Maryland transit workers: high-risk groups

Anyone can become sick with Legionnaires’ disease, but people with the greatest risk of infection include:

  • anyone over the age of 50
  • anyone who smokes or has smoked
  • anyone with a chronic lung disease, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, most commonly emphysema or bronchitis)
  • alcoholics.

The list also includes anyone with an immune system compromised because of:

  • frequent and recurring pneumonia, sinus and ear infections, meningitis, and skin infections
  • inflammation or infection of the organs
  • blood disorders, such as anemia or low platelet counts
  • delayed growth and development.
Maryland transit workers: hot spots

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), warm, stagnant water provides the right conditions for Legionella bacteria to grow. The bacteria can multiply at temperatures between 68 degrees and 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and temperatures of 90 degrees to 105 degrees provide the optimal conditions for growth.

The types of environments best suited to produce Legionella-friendly conditions – and which would apply in this situation – are:

  • water systems of large buildings (hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, etc.)
  • large plumbing systems
  • air-conditioning system cooling towers
  • hot-water heaters and tanks
  • bathroom showers and faucets.
Maryland transit workers: serious consequences

The severity of Legionnaires’ disease is illustrated in an Epidemiology & Infection study from the University of Minnesota. Based on data from the CDC and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), “approximately 9 percent of legionellosis cases, caused by waterborne Legionella bacteria, are fatal, and 40 percent require intensive care.”