Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires’ disease in Washington Heights, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


For the second time this year, Washington Heights is battling Legionnaires’ disease: The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) announced Friday that eight residents of the neighborhood had been infected within a five-day span.

All eight – who range in age from younger than 40 to older than 80 – needed to be hospitalized. Only one patient has been discharged.

In the neighborhood’s first incident, 27 people were sickened in an outbreak over the summer. One victim died.

“The Health Department has identified a second cluster this season of Legionnaires’ disease in the lower Washington Heights area, and we are taking aggressive steps to ensure the safety of residents,” acting DOHMH commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot was quoted in a press release.

The investigation into the summer outbreak identified a cooling tower at the Sugar Hill Project in Harlem as the cause for the illnesses that infected residents of Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights. Analysis of human and cooling-tower specimens matched Legionella strains from the Sugar Hill cooling tower and six patients from the outbreak, which first made headlines July 11.

The DOHMH has ordered the Sugar Hill Project to once again clean and disinfect its cooling systems, because of its proximity to the latest outbreak. The Sugar Hill Project is located at 898 St. Nicholas Avenue and West 155th Street.

According to the DOHMH’s statement, the department has sampled 20 cooling towers within a mile radius to identify the cause for the latest cluster. Owners of buildings with cooling towers that test positive for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, will be ordered to increase their efforts to eliminate it.

The DOHMH will lead a community meeting on the latest incident at 6 p.m. Monday at the Jackie Robinson Recreation Center at 85 Bradhurst Avenue to answer questions and provide updates on the situation.

Watch for symptoms
“Although the risk is very low, we urge residents and people who work in the area to take precautions,” Barbot said in the statement. “Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious and can be treated with common antibiotics if caught early. Anyone with flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately.”

If you live, work or travel through the area, please be vigilant because someone who is infected might not yet be presenting symptoms because of the disease’s two-week incubation period. If you are feeling flu-like symptoms, it’s recommended you see your health-care provider immediately out of an abundance of caution.

Similar to other pneumonias
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease look like other forms of pneumonia (lung infection) or even the flu, which is why so many cases go unreported every year. Early symptoms can include the following:

  • chills
  • fever (potentially 104 degrees or higher)
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days of the disease presenting, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which can bring up mucus and blood
  • diarrhea, nausea and vomiting (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • shortness of breath.

There is also a mild form of Legionnaires’ disease called Pontiac fever, which can produce similar symptoms that include fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches. Pontiac fever doesn’t infect the lungs, however, and symptoms usually clear within two to five days.

More on Legionnaires

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the U.S. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

One in 10 patients infected with Legionnaires will die from the disease.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments.

Where do Legionella live?
Legionnaires’ disease clusters and outbreaks have been linked to numerous sources, such as:

  • cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • water systems, such as those used in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • mist machines and hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.

High-risk categories
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. However, anyone can become ill from the bacteria.

Those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years of age or older
  • smokers, both current and former
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).

Sick with Legionnaires’ disease?
Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires’ disease in Pinellas County, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.


The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County (DOH-Pinellas) is investigating two Legionnaires’ disease cases in the same undisclosed apartment community, according to health officials.

Per a Florida statute, the department does not disclose locations of active investigations. Also, no information was provided on the genders, ages or current health conditions of the two people sickened.

Pinellas County is part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area. Visit www.PinellasHealth.com or call 727-824-6900 for information about DOH-Pinellas.

Do you have these symptoms?
Since the exact area of the outbreak is unknown, if you live or work in, or travel through, Pinellas County and are feeling flu-like symptoms, you should see your health-care provider out of an abundance of caution.

Legionnaires’ disease symptoms are similar to those of other types of pneumonia, and they can even resemble those of influenza (flu). Those symptoms include:

  • chills
  • fever (potentially 104 degrees or higher)
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days of the disease presenting, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and blood
  • diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath.

Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of lung infection and treatable with antibiotics. If not diagnosed early, however, the condition can lead to severe complications and even become deadly. It is not contagious; that is, it cannot be passed from person to person.

Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart. It can also lead to a number of life-threatening complications, including respiratory failure, septic shock, and acute kidney failure.

A mild form of Legionnaires’ disease — known as Pontiac fever — may produce signs and symptoms including a fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches. Pontiac fever doesn’t infect your lungs, and symptoms usually manifest within two to five days.

More Legionnaires info

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur yearly in the U.S. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor.

About one in 10 people who gets sick from Legionnaires will die

Legionella sources
The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments. Outbreaks have been linked to numerous sources, such as:

  • water systems, such as those used in apartment complexes, hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • the cooling towers of air conditioning systems
  • large plumbing systems
  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • mist machines and hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.

People also can contract Legionnaires’ disease by the aspiration of contaminated drinking water – that is, choking or coughing while drinking can cause water to go down the wrong pipe into the lungs. It’s also possible to contract Legionnaires’ disease from home plumbing systems, although the vast majority of outbreaks have occurred in large buildings because complex systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily.

High-risk categories
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. However, anyone can become ill from the bacteria, and those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years of age or older
  • smokers, both current and former
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • recipients of organ transplants
  • individuals who are on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, to name one).

Warmer weather to blame?
Legionnaires’ disease is “an emerging disease in the sense that the number of recorded cases of Legionnaires in the United States continues to increase,” said Laura Cooley of the CDC’s Respiratory Diseases Branch.

In a 2017 interview, Cooley said the increase is due to a rise in the susceptibility of the population, with more and more people on immunosuppressive medications. There also could be more Legionella in the environment, with warmer temperatures creating the right conditions for bacterial growth.

Seventeen of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001, according to analyses by both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The four warmest years on record have occurred since 2014, with 2017 being the warmest non-El Niño year recorded.

This year is shaping up to be the fourth-hottest year on record. The only years hotter were the three previous ones.

An American Cancer Society (ACS) patient died from complications of contracting Legionnaires’ disease at the ACS’ Hope Lodge in Manhattan in May 2015, according to a lawsuit filed in March. The patient was one of four who took ill with the disease while staying at the housing facility, numerous news sources reported.

Joan Pedersen, 62, had to stop being treated for brain cancer because of the Legionnaires’ disease, which weakened her and prevented her from continuing radiation and chemotherapy treatment. She recovered from the Legionnaires’ disease, but subsequently succumbed to the cancer in May 2015.

According to the lawsuit, the ACS “refused” to install a long-term water-disinfection system for its water supply for months after the Department of Health recommended it do so in late 2015. The ACS finally installed the system in April 2016.

The Hope Lodge provides free housing for cancer patients and their families, who must travel for treatment. There are 30 Hope Lodge locations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

The Parisian luxury hotel in Macau, China, has been linked to a possible outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease after three elderly Hong Kong residents were sickened between December 2016 and April, according to multiple news reports.

Macau Health Bureau authorities said two victims have been hospitalized, with one in critical condition and the other in serious condition, and the third has recovered. Two of the men stayed overnight at the hotel, while the third was merely visiting the property.

The Health Bureau ordered Parisian officials to temporarily close the pool, water fountains, and Jacuzzi, as well as to conduct a thorough inspection, cleaning, disinfection, and testing of the water system and possible infected areas. The Health Bureau has completed its testing, and the results are expected back this week.

The $2.7 billion hotel, a five-star resort owned by the Las Vegas Sands, opened September 13, 2016.

The Florida Department of Health has alerted the LA Fitness in Ocoee, a suburb of Orlando, that three gym users have been sickened with Legionnaires’ disease, according to numerous news reports. It has yet to be determined if the infected individuals contracted the disease at the facility, but management is cooperating fully with the investigation by state health officials.

A person catches Legionnaires’ disease – a serious type of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria – by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The Legionella bacteria are found primarily in human-made, warm-water environments.

The outbreak is the second experienced by an LA Fitness facility in the past six months. In December 2016, two members of a facility in Long Island, NY, were infected with Legionnaires’ disease, and officials shut down the pool, pool area, and spa after water samples showed positive for the Legionella bacteria. One of the infected members filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against the club in March.

A man disabled after contracting Legionnaires’ disease he said was caused by exposure to contaminated water on the job is entitled to workers’ compensation indemnity and medical benefits, a Pennsylvania appellate court ruled in late March.

Business Insurance – a publication of Crain Communications — reported that in June 2013, Shawn Gallen of Nestle USA Inc. experienced flu-like systems and sought treatment at a hospital, where he was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ Disease. The illness affected Gallen’s speech and left him in a wheelchair and needing assistance.

Gallen sued Nestle in September 2013, saying he was infected while working on machines that contained contaminated water. According to court records, Nestle denied the allegations and said Gallen could not prove the disease was a result of work-related exposure.

A workers’ comp judge, however, ruled after hearing testimony that Gallen’s illness likely was caused by exposure on the job. The judge determined that Gallen was temporarily totally disabled and entitled to workers’ comp benefits, and the state’s Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board affirmed that decision, court documents show. Nestle filed an appeal, but a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania unanimously upheld the judge’s decision.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in June 2016 that the number of Legionnaires’ disease cases that were recorded in the United States between the years 2000 and 2014 more than quadrupled, increasing from 1,127 to 5,166.* Outbreaks both big and small are becoming more frequent on a yearly basis, as evidenced by these reports from 2016:

  • January: A Fresno, CA, nursing home resident died after contracting Legionnaires’ disease.
  • February: An individual case of Legionnaires’ disease was reported in Moravia, NY, at the Mill Stream Court Apartments.
  • May: The Hawaii Department of Health investigated one possible and two confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in guests who stayed at a hotel in Kapaa in late April to early May. Both confirmed victims recovered.
  • June: Two people were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease after staying at a condominium resort in Ocean City, MD. The resort had installed a water disinfection system in April because two other guests had been diagnosed with the disease after staying there in October 2015, but the Legionella bacteria was still discovered in the water system. … Three guests at a hotel in Blowing Rock, NC, were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease between April 15 and June 15, and all three were hospitalized. … Four residents of a personal-care home in Middletown, PA, tested positive for Legionella, and one died.
  • July: Two cases of Legionnaires’ disease were confirmed at an apartment complex in West Harlem, NY. (Note: The announcement came less than a year after New York City’s largest Legionnaires’ disease outbreak occurred in the south Bronx, infecting 108 and killing 10.)
  • August: Two residents of the Ussery-Roan Veterans Home in Amarillo, TX, contracted Legionnaires’ disease. Both recovered.
  • September: Twenty-three cases – including one fatality – were reported in Hopkins, MN, and were attributed to a cooling tower at Citrus Systems, Inc. … An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease infected four patients at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, resulting in the death of two. A 32-year-old woman who recovered sued the hospital. … In Marietta, GA, four cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported at Cobb Lockheed Martin’s facility, confirmed over the course of a year.
  • October: Six individuals from Chaves County in New Mexico were confirmed with Legionnaires’ disease, and two of the victims died. No cause of the outbreak was determined. … Eight cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported at the La Quinta Inn in Memphis, TN.
  • December: An LA Fitness in Long Island, NY, temporarily closed its pool and spa for testing and remediation after two members were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. Both victims recovered.

Incidents of Legionnaires’ disease typically rise during warmer weather, but as this list shows, the disease has become a year-round problem. Perhaps the tide can be stemmed in 2017.

* The number of actual cases of Legionnaires’ disease is thought to be about 25,000 per year, simply because of the preponderance of unreported cases, which are due primarily to the nonspecific signs and symptoms. According to medscape.com, accurate data is not available due to the “underutilization of diagnostic testing.”

Sources: hcinfo.com, CDC.com, legionella.org, mayoclinic.org, medscape.com

Legionnaires’ disease is one of those illnesses that usually has people scratching their heads. Most don’t understand what it is or what it does. That, however, is starting to change, as the disease becomes more commonplace and newsworthy.

Here are some frequently asked questions – and their corresponding answers – about Legionnaires’ disease:

What is Legionnaires’ disease? Legionnaires’ disease – also called Legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to the Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur each year, but only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms, and 10 percent of those will die from the infection.

How do you catch Legionnaires’ disease? The Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments. Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, such as:

  • cooling towers in air conditioning systems
  • decorative fountains
  • mist machines in grocery stores’ produce sections
  • hot tubs and whirlpools at fitness centers and on cruise ships
  • hot water tanks and heaters
  • large plumbing systems
  • showers and faucets
  • swimming pools
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • water systems like those used in hotels, hospitals, and nursing homes.

People can also catch Legionnaires’ disease by the aspiration of contaminated drinking water – that is, choking or coughing while drinking can cause water to go down the wrong pipe into the lungs. It’s also possible to contract Legionnaires’ disease from home plumbing systems, although the great majority of outbreaks have occurred in large buildings, because complex systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily.

How is LeLD2_AFPgionnaires’ disease diagnosed? The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease look like other forms of pneumonia or even the flu, which is why so many cases go unreported every year. Early symptoms can include the following:

  • chills
  • fever (potentially 104 degrees or higher)
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches.

After the first few days of the disease presenting, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and/or blood
  • diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath.

The incubation period – the amount of time between breathing in the bacteria and developing symptoms – is usually 2 to 10 days after exposure and can be as much as 16 days. On average, however, the incubation period is 3 to 6 days.

(Note: There is also a mild form of Legionnaires’ disease called Pontiac fever, which can produce symptoms including a fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches. Pontiac fever doesn’t infect the lungs, however, and symptoms usually clear within two to five days.)

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

Are you at risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease? Anyone can get the disease, but those at the greatest risk of infection include:

  • people 50 years old or older
  • smokers (current or former)
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
  • people with weakened immune systems (those suffering from diseases such as diabetes, cancer, kidney failure, or infected with HIV)
  • organ-transplant recipients (kidney, heart, etc.)
  • individuals following certain drug protocols (for instance, corticosteroids)

Even relatively healthy individuals have been known to contract the disease, although less typically.

Why is it called Legionnaires’ disease? In July 1976, more than 4,000 delegates gathered at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia for the American Legion Convention. Several days after the conclusion of the four-day event, many attendees took ill. By August 2nd, 22 attendees were dead and hundreds who had attended the gathering were experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms. The final case count reached 221, and 34 of the victims died. It wasn’t until months later that the bacterium was identified and isolated and found to be breeding in the cooling tower of the hotel’s air conditioning system.

Sources: CDC.com, epa.gov, osha.gov, eddmprnews.org, legionella.org, mayoclinic.org, patient.info, hcinfo.com, healthline.com, medscape.com

Image: Agence France-Presse