Elliot Olsen has regained millions for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member were sickened in one of these 2019 Legionnaires outbreaks, please call Elliot at (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

Legionnaires’ disease is a water-borne illness that’s seemingly setting new records year after the year in the United States – the types of records nobody wants to see.

While early reports indicate that Legionnaires cases in the U.S. were down 20 percent in 2019, there were numerous eye-opening outbreaks across the country, causing concern and raising awareness of the danger of Legionella, the bacteria that causes the disease.

An outbreak at an Atlanta hotel in June and July was the largest legionellosis outbreak in Georgia history. Then, in September, a North Carolina state fair recorded that state’s largest recorded outbreak, which also was the largest in the country this year.

(Note: Legionellosis is the collective term for diseases caused by Legionella bacteria – Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever.)

North Carolina wasn’t the only state fair affected by an outbreak. A Texas state fair followed suit a couple weeks later. Both were traced back to hot tub displays.

Numerous outbreaks also were recorded at hospitals, including at five different Chicago-area hospitals.

2019 Legionnaires outbreaks: no slowdown

In 2018, there were 9,933 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, the most ever recorded in a single year since the disease was first identified in 1976, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The incident rate may be much higher, however, because Legionnaires’ disease is underdiagnosed because of its vague symptoms (which resemble other types of pneumonia, and even flu). The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine estimates that as many as 70,000 people suffer from the disease each year. Dr. Paul Edelstein, a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, estimated that more than 100,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease could be occurring each year.

2019 Legionnaires outbreaks: state fairs

One of the year’s biggest spotlights shined on state fairs after hot tub displays were believed to be responsible:

  • North Carolina: Four deaths and 142 cases of legionellosis (134 Legionnaires’ disease; 8 Pontiac Fever) were linked to the WNC Mountain State Fair, Sept. 6-15 in Fletcher.
  • Texas: One death and eight cases of Legionnaires’ disease were confirmed and linked to the East Texas State Fair, Sept. 20-29 in Tyler.

The CDC issued an advisory to physicians and public health practitioners in November, alerting them that hot tub displays at temporary events pose a risk for Legionnaires’ disease. “Event planners and hot tub vendors should know about the risk that hot tubs pose when not maintained adequately, even if the hot tub is for display only,” the advisory warned.

2019 Legionnaires outbreaks: hospitals

Health-care facilities usually serve a population at highest risk for infection from water contaminated with Legionella. Such facilities typically have complex water systems that, if not properly maintained, promote bacterial growth.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the CDC consider it essential that health-care facilities have an extensive water-management program to deal with Legionella and other waterborne pathogens.

Even with such oversight, however, outbreaks at health-care facilities still make headlines:

  • Ohio: A Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at Mount Carmel Grove City hospital was traced to the hot water system and likely was the result of inadequate disinfection, the health system’s Michigan-based parent company Trinity Health said. There were 16 cases, including two deaths, at the suburban Columbus hospital a little more than a month after the seven-floor, $361 million hospital opened April 28. In late October, a second Mount Carmel Health System hospital in the Columbus area confirmed an outbreak when three patients were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease at Mount Carmel East.
  • Michigan: Health officials probed McLaren Macomb Hospital, a Macomb County hospital in Mt. Clemens, after seven cases of Legionnaires’ disease were connected to the hospital between July and mid-September.
  • Illinois: Twelve residents of the Covenant Living at Holmstad retirement home in Batavia were confirmed with Legionnaires’ disease. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) identified a construction site nearby as the likely source of Legionella. (Two neighbors also were diagnosed with the respiratory illness.) Just last month, the IDPH and DuPage County Health Department announced they were investigating after three patients were sickened at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, about 34 miles west of the Chicago Loop. It was the fifth hospital in the state investigated in 2019:
2019 Legionnaires outbreaks: hotels

While health-care facilities are required to bolster oversight of water systems and medical equipment, there is little regulatory oversight of hotels, apartments, and other non-medical buildings.

“There aren’t a lot of people checking up on a hotel, a condominium or a large building,” said Elliot Olsen, who has filed Legionnaires lawsuits on behalf of patients and their families for more than two decades. “I am not aware of any oversight really at any level.”

Incidents of differing scales illustrate that these events can happen anywhere – big cities (Atlanta, with a population of almost 500,000) or small (Crookston, Minnesota, with a population of about 8,000):

  • Atlanta: The Sheraton Atlanta was confirmed as the source of an outbreak after Legionella bacteria were found. There were 13 lab-confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including one death, and 66 probable cases of Legionnaires’ disease related to the outbreak.
  • Minnesota: Four visitors were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease after visiting Crookston Inn and Convention Center last January.