Outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease Raises Serious Questions and Concerns

Although Legionnaires’ Disease has been around since 1976, a major outbreak in Union County and several other regions in 2019 has unearthed a plethora of serious questions and concerns. So far, in Union County alone, there have been 22 registered cases and five deaths as a result of this Legionnaires’ outbreak. A DOH official stated that these individuals fell ill from the months of March through May. 

Legionnaires’ disease is the most common name for the pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria. Legionella bacteria can be found in low levels in lakes, ponds, and streams; with such low levels of this bacteria, contracting Legionnaires’ is highly unlikely. Since studying Legionella bacteria in 1976, scientists have been able to identify at least 60 different species and have determined that as many as 20 of such can cause the disease. 

Legionnaires’ disease is the product of a person’s exposure to water that has been contaminated with the Legionella bacteria. Legionella bacteria can be mostly found in the mist from cooling towers, humidifiers, whirlpools, and hot tubs; consequently, the bacteria becomes airborne. Therefore, inhaling or drinking this infected water can lead to exposure and ultimately the development of Legionnaires’ disease. 

Although scientists believe that as few as 5 in every 100 people that are exposed will develop Legionnaires’ disease, it is important to note that symptoms usually appear within 2-10 days and resemble that of the flu and even gastrointestinal symptoms. Legionnaires’ disease is not contagious and is not transmitted from person to person. Treatment usually involves antibiotics and the earlier the detection and treatment, the greater the chances for recovery.

Lastly, some preventative methods that can implement to reduce or eliminate the possible exposure to Legionella bacteria include: regularly maintaining and cleaning humidifiers, frequently flushing unused water lines, and steadily using chlorine in the maintaining, upkeeping, and operating of hot tubs and whirlpools.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to, or developed, Legionnaires’ disease as a result of someone’s inadequate and negligent maintenance and operating of hot tubs and whirlpools, contact us at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble. 

Sources: The Patch & Occupational Safety and Health Administration Q&A

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