CLOSER LOOK: What is Legionella?

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GROVE CITY, OH (WCMH)–  A Mount Carmel Grove City patient has died after contracting Legionnaires’ disease.

Eight cases of the disease were reported in patients at the hospital.

Legionnaires’ disease generally kills about 10 percent of those diagnosed in the general population, but that rate can rise to 1 in 4 people when the outbreak is at a nursing home or hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthcare facilities usually serve people at the highest risk for the disease including older people and those who have certain risk factors, such as being a current or former smoker, having a chronic disease, or having a weakened immune system. The CDC also says healthcare facilities can have large complex water systems that promote Legionella (the bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease) growth if not properly maintained. 

“One of the issues with it that, a lot of times individuals who come into exposure with it may not come down with anything, but it is those who are mostly older, who have chronic diseases, who are immunocompromised they are the most at risk,” said Franklin County Assistant Health Commissioner Alexandria Jones. 

Causes, How it Spreads, and People at Increased Risk

According to the CDC, Legionella is a type of bacterium found naturally in freshwater environments, like lakes and streams. It can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made building water systems like

  • Showerheads and sink faucets
  • Cooling towers (structures that contain water and a fan as part of centralized air cooling systems for building or industrial processes)
  • Hot tubs that aren’t drained after each use
  • Decorative fountains and water features
  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Large plumbing systems

“It is transmitted through an airborne mechanism. So you have to breath it in,” Jones added.  

Mount Carmel released this statement about the outbreak: 

“We are deeply saddened to confirm that one of the patients who was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease passed away today. Out of respect for the family’s privacy and in keeping with patient privacy laws, we are not discussing the specifics and complexities of patient information. We can say that it’s too early to determine the final cause of death. For most people, the risk of developing Legionnaires’ disease is low; however, individuals with chronic, underlying medical conditions are at increased risk.

Currently, we’re working with county and state health officials to identify the source of the bacteria. We’ve taken several steps to protect our patients, staff and visitors, including implementing extensive water restrictions. We are running additional tests on water sources throughout Mount Carmel Grove City, and our entire water supply is undergoing supplemental disinfection. We’re confident that we can safely maintain full services of the hospital.

If an individual has been hospitalized and developed cough, muscle aches, headaches, fever or shortness of breath, please contact your primary care physician. Members of the public who have questions or would like more information can call 614-265-8111.”

For more information from the CDC about Legionaires’ disease CLICK HERE

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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