According to the Ohio Department of Health, Legionnaires disease cases in Ohio are increasing annually. There were around 600 cases reported in 2015, and more suspected in recent years.
Legionella bacteria grow naturally in the environment and typically in warm water. Growth of the Legionella bacteria and Ohio Legionnaires outbreaks usually occur in building water systems.
Legionnaires disease is a form of atypical pneumonia caused by any type of Legionella bacteria that usually enters the lungs by aspiration of contaminated water or inhalation of mist from contaminated water.
The fatality rate is between 5-30 percent and usually affect middle aged to older individuals who have a history of smoking or have chronic lung disease. Consequently, many reported outbreaks occur in hospitals or other long term care health settings. Pontiac Fever is the more mild infection and does not cause pneumonia or death.
Joe Lyon is an experienced Cincinnati legionnaires disease attorney who is well versed in the science, economic impact, and human loss that such an injury or death has on the injured person’s life and their family.
What is Legionella?
Legionella is a naturally-occurring bacterium that can cause severe respiratory issues and is typically contracted in communal environments. Outbreaks are commonly associated with structures that have complex water systems, like hotels and resorts, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and cruise ships.
Even though most outbreaks are preventable, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently warned that cases of Legionnaires disease have more than quadrupled in recent years.
By some estimates, more than 5,000 people with Legionnaires’ disease are hospitalized every year. The health agency cautioned that actual rates were likely higher than those reported.
The recent CDC report, which examined 27 Legionnaires’ outbreaks from 2000 to 2014, stated that most outbreaks can be prevented through better water management.
In response, the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases is releasing a toolkit to help building owners and managers identify areas of risk and prevent the disease. Contact a Legionella injury attorney after infection.
Causes of Legionnaires Disease
Artificial water systems provide an environment conducive to bacterial growth and represent the likely sources of disease. The bacteria live and grow in water systems at warmer temperatures. Legionella can become a health concern if it grows and spreads in any human-made water systems, such as the following:
• Hot tubs that aren’t drained after each use
• Hot water tanks and heaters
• Large plumbing systems
• Cooling towers
• Air-conditioning units for large buildings
• Decorative fountains
History of Legionnaires
The first case was recognized in 1976 in the Philadelphia American Legion. Since then, outbreaks of Legionnaires Disease often are covered extensively by the media. Approximately 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized every year and the CDC warns that outbreaks are a growing issue.
The first cases of Pontiac fever occurred in 1968 in Pontiac, Michigan, among people at the city’s health department. It wasn’t until the 1976 outbreak in Philadelphia that health officials were able to see that the same bacterium causes both diseases.
Legionnaires Disease Lawsuits
OSHA and other health agencies are working to prevent worker exposures and Legionella cases, which largely depends on managing effective water systems and programs.
The focus of outbreak prevention programs are hinged on safe water systems and their components, which are areas where Legionella can grow. OSHA has developed more awareness and safety programs to help employers plan and implement water management programs.
Some OSHA standards and regulations that may apply to a workplace focus on record keeping, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Respiratory Protection standards.
Legionnaires Disease Outbreaks
Following a diagnosis of Legionnaires Disease in a hospital or other long care facility setting, where you suspect there was negligence, or where you simply have questions about what may have happened, you should contact an experienced Ohio attorney.
The Lyon Firm has the resources and knowledge to work alongside expert infectious disease doctors determine the root cause and to develop the compelling evidence to present the highest quality evidence and arguments on the Plaintiff’s behalf.
Legionnaires Disease Risks
The primary source is almost always water pollution. It can usually traced to several secondary sources where there is a breach of relevant health and safety regulations:
- Negligently Maintained Cooling Towers for Air Conditioning
- Negligently Maintained Plumbing
- Negligently Maintained Water Fountains
- Negligently Maintained Hot Tubs
- Negligently Maintained Spas
- Negligently Maintained Showers
- Negligently Maintained Humidifiers
- Negligently Maintained Mist Sprayers
Cooling towers are part of large air-conditioning systems, and are used to dissipate unwanted heat through water evaporation. Warm water flows into the top of the cooling tower through tubes and nozzles. As this happens, tiny airborne water droplets and mist are formed.
As water falls through the tower, some of it evaporates. Because evaporation consumes heat, the remaining water is cooled. The cooler fans, however, pushes mist and droplets out of the tower.
Cooling towers and evaporative condensers often contain Legionella and other bacteria brought in by air or water. Legionella grows easily
and quickly in the water, and is easily dispersed with the misting of the tower system. Legionella is also been found in hot water tanks, faucets, spas, hot tubs, and humidifiers.
How Does Legionella Spread?
Legionnaires’ disease is often categorized as being community, travel or hospital-acquired, based on the type of exposure. If Legionella multiplies in a water system, the contaminated water can spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in.
A common form of transmission of Legionella is inhalation of contaminated aerosols produced in conjunction with water sprays, jets or mists. (Good examples are humidifiers and whirlpool spas.)
Infection can also pose a particularly dangerous threat to susceptible hospital patients. Cynthia Whitney, chief of the CDC’s respiratory diseases branch, has said that hospitals need to be especially careful about the disease, because some patients often are highly vulnerable to infection.
In one study, almost 40 percent of diagnosed cases of Legionnaires’ were hospital-acquired. In general, Legionnaires’ disease is not spread by human-to-human contact.
People at increased risk of getting sick from Legionella bacteria include the following:
• People 50 years or older
• Current or former smokers
• Heavy consumers of alcohol
• People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
• People with a weak immune system from diseases like cancer, diabetes, or kidney failure
• People who take drugs that suppress (weaken) the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)
• People who have undergone recent surgery, presence of nasogastric tubes, and the use of respiratory therapy equipment.
Legionnaires Disease Treatment
Legionnaires disease varies in severity from a mild illness to a serious and sometimes fatal form of pneumonia. Recovery always requires antibiotic treatment, and is usually complete after several weeks.
Legionnaires’ disease usually worsens during the first week if untreated. About 10 percent of people with Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the death rate may be as high as 40 to 80 percent in untreated immuno-suppressed patients. Death can occur through progressive pneumonia with respiratory failure or multi-organ failure.
Some cases result in long-term complications. A study of outbreak survivors showed the majority had a persistence of fatigue, neurologic symptoms and neuromuscular symptoms in the months after infection.
Legionnaires Disease Complications
Treatment guidelines for Legionnaires generally includes one to three weeks of antibiotic treatment. Most patients will improve with antibiotic treatment, though complications may include:
- High Fever
- Chest Pain
- Respiratory Failure
- Kidney and Multiple Organ Failure
- Septic Shock
Provided the burden of proof is surmounted, Ohio provides monetary compensation for Legionnaires Disease injuries. Ohio has damages cap on certain personal injury awards and those damages caps may apply in certain cases where the injury does not permanently affect a bodily organ.
Human error caused more than half of all outbreaks studied by the CDC. Authorities often fail to clean or replace filters on hot tubs or air conditioners. About one in three outbreaks are the result of equipment problems, such as a faulty disinfection system.
“People are unnecessarily and avoidably getting sick from preventable infections,” said CDC director Thomas Frieden. Because of such damaging oversight, city management and building supervisors must be held responsible when people fall ill.