Legionnaires lawyer Elliot Olsen has extensive experience when it comes to filing a Legionnaires lawsuit. If you or a family member were sickened in this outbreak linked to McLaren Macomb Hospital, you might have reason to do just that. Call Elliot at (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

Michigan health officials are probing a Macomb County hospital after seven cases of Legionnaires’ disease were connected to the hospital since July.

The Macomb County Health Department (MCHD) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are investigating McLaren Macomb Hospital in Mount Clemens, attempting to find the source of the disease and whether more individuals have been infected.

Six of the seven cases were diagnosed since mid-September, prompting the investigation.

“Though the investigation is ongoing and a definite source has not been identified, we are responding with an abundance of caution and partnering with the Macomb County Health Department to identify targeted areas in the hospital to implement additional precautions to our water management efforts,” according to a statement released by McLaren Macomb Hospital officials.

The precautions include increased water testing at the facility, installing filters, removing aerators, and providing bottled water options. Recent testing has not indicated any presence of Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires.

McLaren Macomb Hospital: warning issued

“We are urging anyone who has been a recent patient at McLaren Macomb, or been at the hospital, and is experiencing any of the symptoms to contact their primary doctor,” MCHD director William Ridella told the Macomb Daily.

Legionnaires’ disease generally develops two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella bacteria. It frequently begins with the following symptoms:

  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • chills
  • fever, which can be 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

By the second or third day, other symptoms develop, such as:

  • 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 other parts of the body, including the heart.

McLaren Macomb Hospital: disease on rise

Macomb County has recorded 45 legionellosis cases in 2019 and 96 in the past 12 months. (Legionellosis is the umbrella term for Legionnaires’ disease and its milder sibling, Pontiac fever.)

The county also reported an increase in legionellosis cases in each of the previous four years, with a record 102 cases in 2018, according to the MCHD’s Reportable Diseases Summary:

  • 2019: 45
  • 2018: 102
  • 2017: 56
  • 2016: 34
  • 2015: 25

The MCHD reminds us that Legionnaires’ disease is a respiratory infection with radiologic findings consistent with pneumonia. It is most common in the summer and early fall, when temperatures are higher, and stagnant waters present the best environment for bacterial growth in water systems.

McLaren Macomb Hospital: difficult diagnosis

Legionnaires’ disease, or Legionella pneumonia, is a respiratory illness that is contracted when people inhale microscopic aerosolized water droplets (vapor or mist).

Because many symptoms of legionellosis are similar to those of the common flu or pneumonia, the illness it causes is often overlooked or undiagnosed, leading to the disease being underreported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For the disease to be classified correctly, specific testing and diagnosis must be done from a Legionnaires’ disease standpoint, and those tests are often not ordered. It’s not required for physicians to order Legionella-specific testing when a patient presents with pneumonia.

McLaren Macomb Hospital: most at risk

A 2015 study by the 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.

Others 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.

The 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.

After Legionnaires’ disease has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often necessary. In the most severe Legionnaires cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.

McLaren Macomb Hospital: serious consequences

The severity of the illness 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.”