Several outbreaks of Legionnaires’ Disease across the country, including in several nursing homes, are a reminder of the vulnerability of our elderly citizens and highlight the need for nursing homes to provide proper care and safety for their residents. Legionnaires’ Disease is a potentially deadly form of pneumonia that can be spread through fountains, plumbing systems, hot tubs, and large air conditioning units, such as those found in hotels, office buildings, or nursing homes. The disease was first discovered by the CDC in 1976 at a Philadelphia convention of American Legionnaires, where 182 people contracted the disease, and 29 of them died.
There have been outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease on a regular basis since 1976, but there appears to have been more outbreaks in the past few months. In one of the worst outbreaks, 50 residents of a 129-year-old veterans’ home in Quincy, Illinois were infected by the disease, resulting in at least eight resident deaths. Illinois state health officials noted that the disease has a two-week incubation period, and therefore more residents could potentially be infected. Additionally, a retirement home in Jacksonville, Florida called Camellia at Dearwood has also been the setting for an outbreak of the disease. The home announced that two men had contracted the disease and were hospitalized after contracting it from the retirement home water supply. This followed a similar outbreak of other residents at the same retirement home in April.
Other outbreaks have occurred in San Quentin State Prison in California, sickening over 100 inmates and causing the entire prison to be on lockdown, and a hotel in Bronx, New York where approximately 100 residents of a hotel were sickened through exposure to water from an infected cooling tower, and 12 people died as a result.
Medical researchers have indicated that a number of factors make estimation of the true number of Legionnaires’ Disease outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities difficult, and that incidence of the disease is almost certainly underreported in such facilities. Symptoms of the disease begin with headaches, muscle pain, chills and high fevers, and may soon progress to coughing, chest pain, gastrointestinal problems, and confusion. Common causes of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease include a failure to maintain a proper water temperature in water supply systems and impurities in the water such as rust or algae.
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have a duty to protect the safety of their residents and to maintain a clean and hygienic atmosphere. If you suspect lack of adequate precaution or hygiene at a Lexington area nursing home, please contact O’Brien Batten Kirtley & Coomer, PLLC to schedule a free consultation about helping you or a loved one obtain the assistance, care, and compensation you need and deserve.