Three senior living communities have recently reported cases of Legionnaire’s disease, mirroring the increasing number of reported cases.
As a precaution, one retirement community in Ellicott City, Md., opted to shut off water in three apartment buildings after a second resident was diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease. It’s unclear how the first resident contracted the disease in May. The new facility opened in April.
“Other than the fact that [residents] can’t use their water, it’s business as normal,” says Lisa Albin, director of church and public relations for Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant to The Baltimore Sun, adding the source of the infection is unknown. “We have been using an overabundance of caution because we care deeply about the health and safety of our residents.”
The Nottingham, a nursing home in Jamesville, N.Y., enacted similar precautions this week after tests showed a low level of Legionella bacteria in the facility’s water system. No residents of The Nottingham’s 40-unit skilled nursing unit have been diagnosed, facility operator Loretto, says to Syracuse.com.
The facilities voluntarily turned off the water and followed procedures to flush the water system. That meant they had to provide bottled water to residents since they weren’t allowed to drink from the tap, juice machines or ice machines. Meal planning and prep needed to be adjusted since staff couldn’t cook or clean up with tap water. Bathing procedures also had to be adjusted. Showers were outfitted with special filters, bottled water was provided for shaving and brushing teeth and bedside bathing was available.
Legionnaires’ is a serious type of pneumonia caused by breathing in small water droplets containing the bacteria legionella and is not spread from person to person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Most outbreaks occur in buildings with large water systems, including long-term care facilities, hospitals and hotels. The number of people diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease grew by nearly four times from 2000 to 2014. About 5,000 people are diagnosed with the disease, and there are at least 20 outbreaks reported each year.
Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, muscle aches, high fever and headaches and can appear between two to 10 days after exposure to a water source, according to the. People age 50 and older, with a weakened immune system or chronic lung disease are most susceptible to Legionnaires’. The disease can be treated by antibiotics.