Jul
19
2016
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A water management company has been accused of failure to carry out required tests after several people became ill with Legionnaires’ disease at a New Zealand plant.

Solenis New Zealand is a branch of the Delaware-based water treatment company Solenis. The company was contracted by the multinational dairy company Fonterra to manage water quality at its plant in Pahiatua, New Zealand. After 13 people who worked at or near the plant became ill with Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, an investigation into Solenis’ testing practices was carried out. WorkSafe, the New Zealand government agency that oversees workplace health and safety, has accused Solenis of failure to carry out proper testing.

WorkSafe reports that Solenis waited until after the recommended time period to test samples and did not properly record the time of sampling, meaning that some water samples waited over two days to be tested. They would also test samples in batches of 20, meaning that samples were left waiting until there were enough to process. Furthermore, Solenis waited more than a month between testing water towers, though monthly testing had been agreed upon.

No legal action has been taken in this case—a Legionella expert told WorkSafe that none of these factors were enough to prove a significant effect on testing results. Many of those affected by the disease are disappointed by the government’s failure to prosecute. Despite the company’s efforts, some people who have contracted the disease are still out of work and unsure when they will be able to return. The incident once again highlights the importance of regular and reliable testing for Legionella bacteria and of preventative measures to ensure that Legionella contamination does not end in an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.

Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S.  Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 5:39 pm
Jul
18
2016
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Reports from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office state that an inmate at the Cook County Jail in Chicago has been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. The inmate had originally been hospitalized on July 6 with symptoms resembling pneumonia, and he eventually tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease. Officials say that this is an isolated incident and that none of the man’s cellmates or members of the prison staff have demonstrated symptoms. Still, they have moved the inmate to Stroger Hospital in Chicago, and facilities managers are investigating potential sources of the disease.

Check our blog for updates to this story.

Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S.  Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 12:52 pm
Jul
15
2016
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Legislation mandating that hospitals conduct routine tests for Legionella has paid off in Australia, where a Queensland hospital caught the bacteria in its water supply before patients were infected.

A deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2013 prompted lawmakers to require that hospitals perform regular tests for Legionella. As a result of such tests, the Cunnamulla Hospital in southwestern Queensland reported last week that its water system contained Legionella bacteria. Hospital officials responded by chlorinating the water system, replacing water fixtures, and retesting the water supply.

Thanks to the mandatory tests and the quick action of the hospital officials, no illnesses have been reported. Hospitals and assisted-living facilities are at particular risk of Legionella contaminatino for several reasons. Large buildings with complex water systems allow the bacteria many opportunities to grow and spread, and the source of an outbreak can be difficult to pinpoint. In the absence of frequent testing, bacteria can appear anywhere from showers and pools to drinking fountains and ice machines. In addition, patients and the elderly are groups at highest risk for Legionnaires’ disease, which is especially deadly for those with compromised immune systems.

More information is available here.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 11:48 am
Jul
14
2016
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Lutheran Village at Miller's Creek

Lutheran Village at Miller’s Creek

A Maryland retirement community implemented a water treatment program earlier this summer after residents contracted Legionnaires’ disease. The water has been tested and health officials have now cleared the facility for normal operation.

A case of Legionnaires’ disease at the Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant in Ellicott City, MD, prompted management to shut off the water at the facility in early June. Two more residents were eventually diagnosed with the disease. While water was shut off, residents used bottled water for cooking and cleaning and avoided showers in the bathrooms, and some stayed at hotels. Health officials think it likely that the residents contracted the disease from the retirement community, though extensive testing of the facility’s water did not reveal the source of the bacteria.

Despite not finding a definite source for the Legionella bacteria, management was extremely cautious, and they have performed several rounds of lab tests. These tests have shown that the level of Legionella in the water does not pose a health risk to residents. Still, the health department has advised the facility to test its water every two weeks for the next three months. If results continue to show no bacteria, officials will stop testing.

More information is available here.

Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S.  Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 11:45 am
Jul
12
2016
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The Golden Sands Condo in Ocean Park, MD

The Golden Sands Condo in Ocean Park, MD

More people have been sickened by Legionnaires’ disease at a condominium in Ocean Park, Maryland. The Golden Sands Club Condominium reported the second round of cases in less than a year.

Last November, four people who had previously stayed at the Golden Sands Club Condominium were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. The guests had stayed at the large beachfront complex during October 2015. Though the outbreak was never officially linked to the condominiums, facility managers tested the water there and found Legionella bacteria. Managers installed a water treatment system in April in an attempt to control the bacteria. They also notified prospective guests and the health department, as required by law. Some of the victims involved in the fall outbreak have retained counsel.

Unfortunately, the treatment system seems to have been unsuccessful, as two more people have now been diagnosed after staying at the complex. The health department has again released a statement saying that individuals who stayed at the complex in June have contracted Legionnaires’ disease, and they have promised to keep the public informed about further developments.

For more information on the recent outbreak, click here.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 9:46 am
Jul
11
2016
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Public awareness of the problem of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint, Michigan may finally be paying off. A research project headed by Wayne State University in Michigan will investigate the possibility that water from the Flint River was contaminated with Legionella bacteria in addition to lead.

After nearly 100 Flint residents contracted Legionnaires’ disease in 2014 and 2015, with 12 cases proving fatal, experts wondered whether the outbreak was related to the city’s water system. (By contrast, only one case of Legionnaires’ disease has been reported in the Flint area so far this year.) Little testing was done for Legionella, though, despite the fact that hospitals in the area reported the presence of the bacteria in their water system.

Now, Wayne State University has been awarded a $3 million grant to head an 18-month study of water from the Flint area. The first phase of the two-phase study lasted from March to May of this year and assessed the community’s needs. Phase two, which has now been approved, will focus on three areas: testing and monitoring of water, technical assistance in diagnosing and preventing Legionnaires’ disease, and community engagement and information. This phase of the project will be implemented over the next eighteen months under the direction of the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership (FACHEP), a team headed by Wayne State University researchers with the participation of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Since the source of Flint’s water has been changed back from the Flint River to Lake Huron, and since very few tests were taken at the time of the outbreak, it may ultimately be impossible to tell whether the change was the cause of the disease. Still, the FACHEP team hopes to reach the citizens of Flint who are at highest risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease. The team has set up a website with resources and information for affected residents, and hopes to move forward with the second phase of its plan shortly.

Click here for more information on the recent announcement or go to FACHEP’s website.

Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S.  Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.

 

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 10:45 am
Jul
08
2016
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A recent Huffington Post article draws attention to the nationwide problem of Legionnaires’ disease and to the benefits of mandatory tests for the disease.

In a June 30 piece, Joseph Erbentraut discusses the deadly risk of Legionnaires’ disease as well as the surprising absence of legislation to prevent it. Erbentraut was prompted to write the piece by the recent Legionellosis outbreak in Flint, MI, but the article draws attention to the nationwide prevalence of the disease and the threat it poses to the elderly and infirm. Experts quoted in the article point out the fact that Legionnaires’ disease is often underreported as its symptoms resemble pneumonia. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued documents suggesting strategies to control the disease; still, these suggestions have no legislative backing, and “voluntary testing can only go so far”.

The Huffington Post has covered Legionnaires’ disease in the past, with a particular focus on cases arising from the water contamination in Flint. Erbentraut also has a history of covering issues of water safety for the site.

Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S.  Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 9:36 am
Jul
07
2016
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The first case of Legionnaires’ disease this year has been reported in the Flint, MI area. The news comes less than a week after county officials issued a statement saying that no new cases of Legionnaires’ disease had been reported in Flint’s county in 2016.

In a statement released on June 30, the Genesee County Health Department stated that no residents of the area have contracted the disease in 2016. On July 6, however, officials from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that a patient from the Genesee County area had been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. The condition of the patient, who is over 65, is unknown.

Officials have found no connection between the patient and the area near Flint affected by contaminated water, and the case does not appear to be part of an outbreak. Still, the disclosure of the disease is another setback for the embattled public health officials of the Flint area. The rising temperatures of summer bring increased danger of Legionnaires’ disease, as Legionella bacteria thrive in warmer temperatures.

Officials are wary of a return of the 2014-15 outbreak that sickened scores of Flint residents and claimed twelve lives. After the city’s water supply was switched from the contaminated Flint River to Lake Huron, fewer public health issues have been reported, but scientists have not been able to confirm or deny that the Flint River was the source of the problem.

Click here for more information on this story.

Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S.  Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 9:12 am
Jul
06
2016
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In this September 10, 2015 photo, contractors assemble pipes to flush out a fire hydrant beneath the water tower at the state veterans home in Quincy, Ill. The home’s drinking water system was disinfected with chlorine to help fight a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that has killed nine residents so far and sickened at least 45 other people at the home, including five workers. (AP Photo/Alan Scher Zagier)

Contractors work on the new water system at the Quincy Veterans Home. (AP Photo/Alan Scher Zagier)

The Quincy Veterans Home in Quincy, Illinois has unveiled a new water system designed to combat Legionnaires’ disease.

An August 2015 outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the home sickened 53 people and caused 12 deaths. (Read our blog post for more about this outbreak.) During the outbreak, residents drank bottled water and avoided showers as officials disinfected water tanks with chlorine and shut down potential sources of the bacteria.

As investigators noted, the veterans’ home posed several challenges to officials as they sough to stop the spread of the disease. The sprawling, 200-acre campus contains 48 buildings, making efforts to identify and control the source of the contaminated water complicated. The facility was founded over 100 years ago and much of its infrastructure is aging. The 400 residents of the veterans’ home are at particular risk of contracting the disease, which is especially dangerous to patients who are over age 50 or suffering from ill health and compromised immune systems.

Emergency repairs and replacement of the water system took place soon after the 2015 outbreak. The Illinois Capital Development Board provided nearly $5 million in funding for a new water main and upgraded sanitation equipment. Though operational funds were temporarily withheld from the facility in late 2015 due to the state’s budget crisis, funds were eventually released in December and work continued under the direction of several local sanitation companies. State health officials and the CDC were also involved in the investigation; the CDC released a detailed report about the state of the facility, including recommendations that action be taken to modernize the water system and improve screening for Legionellosis.

Now, the new water system is in use and has begun serving the veterans’ home. A garage on the premises was converted into a chemical treatment station and several other upgrades to the cold-water system were implemented. Water is now treated daily with disinfectant before traveling to individual buildings on the campus, where it is heated to temperatures at which Legionella bacteria cannot survive. The water is then cooled and released into the building’s system.

Read more about this story here.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 9:21 am
Jul
05
2016
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Legionella bacteria in the water supply of the Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh likely caused a cancer patient to contract Legionnaires’ disease. Officials previously believed that the patient, now recovered, had contracted the illness elsewhere, but new tests show that the bacteria originated in the hospital.

After a cancer patient who had previously been treated at the hospital was readmitted with respiratory problems at the end of May, doctors tested the patient for Legionnaires’ disease. (Click here for our original blog post on this story.) The test was positive, and the patient was treated and made a full recovery. At the time, hospital officials believed that the patient had contracted the disease outside of the hospital, but they nevertheless followed health recommendations and commissioned intensive testing of water samples. Over 70 water samples were tested, of which one was positive for Legionella. Since Legionella bacteria exists in a number of subtypes, advanced testing was necessary to determine whether the patients were infected by bacteria of the same serogroup that was in the water.

Officials commissioned this advanced testing at the end of June, and results have now come back confirming that the water was the source of the bacteria. Bacteria from the patient’s sputum samples and hospital water samples both belonged to Legionella pneumophilia serogroup 5, which is a relatively uncommon form. Since this is suggestive but not conclusive, further testing was done to determine whether the two types of bacteria shared DNA. These DNA tests revealed that the bacteria were in fact related, proving that the patient had contracted Legionnaires’ disease from the hospital.

Allegheny General Hospital reported the results of this test to county health officials and are taking steps to prevent an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. Affected tanks have been shut off and patients, especially those with compromised immune systems, have been instructed to avoid the showers and to drink bottled water. Such measures are especially crucial at large hospitals, where many patients have weakened immune systems or are taking immunosuppressants, and in any building with a complex water system.

For more on this story, including information on different types of Legionella testing, click here.

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 11:19 am