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

You can’t turn on the news these days without hearing or reading about Coronavirus or COVID-19. Legionnaires’ disease, however, continues to be a puzzle that health-care providers in Columbus, Ohio, have yet to solve.

Just last week, Arlington Court Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center in suburban Columbus became the seventh Columbus-area facility to report a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak since May of last year. The nursing facility, located about 6 miles northwest of downtown Columbus, had two cases of the pneumonia-like illness diagnosed last month, adding to an initial case from last October.

Legionellosis outbreaks occur when two or more people are exposed to Legionella bacteria in the same place and get sick at about the same time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Legionellosis is the collective term for the two diseases – Legionnaires’ disease and its milder sibling, Pontiac fever – caused when one inhales small droplets of water that contain Legionella.

Columbus outbreak: one after the other

Although hospitals and nursing homes have provisions in place to bolster oversight of building waters systems and medical equipment that could expose patients to harmful Legionella, Columbus-area facilities have reported numerous issues over the past eight months:

  • In January, a 45-year-old resident of Pataskala Oaks Care Center was diagnosed with LD. Nursing home officials responded by turning off water fountains and installing filters on shower heads, as well as hyper-chlorinating the water system. The Legionella source is unknown.
  • Last October and November, three people who received treatment at Mount Carmel East Hospital on the east side of Columbus were infected with LD. It was the third Legionella issue for the Mount Carmel Health System in 2019.
  • In August, health officials said elevated levels of Legionella were detected in the water supply at Marian Hall on the Mount Carmel College of Nursing’s Franklinton campus. Construction disrupted the building’s water supply, and subsequent water tests uncovered the presence of Legionella. No illnesses were reported.
  • In July, the Delaware General Health District investigated a single confirmed case of LD at Country-View of Sunbury Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home about 25 miles north of Columbus.
  • In late June, an inmate at Franklin Medical Center in Columbus was hospitalized after contracting LD. It was the fifth LD case reported at the corrections medical center since 2017.
  • On May 31, in the largest LD outbreak in the state last year, Franklin County Public Health confirmed 16 patients were diagnosed with the disease at Mount Carmel Grove City Hospital. One victim died. The Columbus outbreak occurred a little more than a month after the seven-floor, $361 million hospital had opened on April 28. Trinity Health, the Michigan-based parent company of the Mount Carmel Health System, traced the Legionella to the facility’s hot water system. Officials said the contamination was the result of “inadequate disinfection,” and they admitted they failed to adequately re-test and re-clean the water supply on particular floors before the hospital opened.
Columbus outbreak: 2018 a bad year 

In 2018, the most recent year that statistics are available, Ohio was among the nation’s leaders in legionellosis cases with 903. Ohio trailed only New York, which had 1,424 cases (654 in New York City). Next in line were Pennsylvania (638), Michigan (644), Illinois (509), Florida (496), California (453) and Texas (415).

Franklin County reported 208 of the 903 cases in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Health, the most of any county. Franklin is the largest of the three counties encompassing Columbus; Delaware and Fairfield are the others.

Columbus outbreak: symptom similarities

A recent article on NPRIllinois.org comparing Legionnaires’ disease to coronavirus stated that “experts say there’s another, more common disease that ought to be getting more attention.” The headline? “In Illinois, Legionnaires’ disease more prevalent than Coronavirus.”

The symptoms of the two diseases look eerily similar:

Coronavirus symptoms develop within two to 14 days after exposure, although experts are still trying to determine the exact cause of the illness. Symptoms are flu-like, and include:

  • respiratory problems
  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • breathing difficulties.

In more severe Coronavirus cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

Legionnaires’ disease symptoms develop two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella. The illness frequently begins with the following symptoms:

  • respiratory problems
  • fever
  • cough, which can bring up mucus and sometimes blood
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • chills
  • gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • confusion and other mental changes.

In the most severe LD cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, or even death.

The most significant difference between the two deadly illnesses is that coronavirus can be spread person-to-person; Legionnaires’ disease cannot.