COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Franklin County Health Department is investigating a nursing facility in northwest Columbus for cases of Legionella.

According to Mitzi Kline, the director of communications for the county’s health department, Arlington Court Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center on Northwest Professional Plaza is being investigated for three cases of Legionella.

The county is investigating three reported cases of the disease, one from October 2019 and two from February of this year.

Kline said there have been no fatalities tied to the cases at the facility.

“I believe they are doing business as usual,” Kline said. “As long as they can operate with showers and they are providing bottled water, we have not limited their business at all other than water restrictions.”

A letter dated Feb. 11 sent to Arlington Court residents and their families by the center reads:

Over the past few days Arlington Court has been working with Franklin County Public Health to establish water restrictions to protect our residents. While nothing has been confirmed at this point, potential legionella concerns have been brought to our attention and testing of our water supply is underway.

In the interim, we have undertaken a number of precautions in order to protect all of our residents, visitors and staff. Previous testing of our water supply did not show legionella but we are testing again and have implemented an alternative water source and filter system for drinking and bathing. We are working in close partnership with Franklin County Public Health and the Ohio Department of Health regarding the matter. There has been no interruption in healthcare services.

Arlington Court takes very seriously the health and safety of everyone at the facility and we want to thank you for your patience regarding this matter as we work through this investigation process, and for your continued support of our facility.

A statement Sunday from Vrable Healthcare Companies, which operates the Arlington Court facility, reads, in part:

Arlington Court is working closely with Franklin County Public Health to investigate any reports. Water sampling results taken since February 11th confirm Legionella species, non pneumophila in our water system, not serogroup 1, which causes Legionaires diseases. According to Franklin County Public Health and legionella specialist Special Pathogens Laboratories, all Legionella bacteria are naturally found in freshwater environments. The non pneumophila type is found commonly in water and soil and is not the type to normally cause illness. 

In addition, Vrable states water restrictions and other precautions have been in place since Feb. 10, which includes special filters placed with guidance from the county health department. The filters have been installed in showers, bathrooms, ice machines, in the kitchen, and in visitor areas throughout the building.

Kim Kessler said her 90-year-old mother was admitted to Arlington Court through hospice since she currently has the flu.

Kessler said they were never told about the Legionella cases.

“If they would have told us that, we would have said, ‘Okay, thanks but no thanks, we’ll move on to the next one,’ but they didn’t even give us the option of making the decision,” she said.

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. 

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.