Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak, Cooling Towers Suspected Source

From July to early August of 2013, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sickened over 35 people. At least one Legionnaires’ disease victims died in Milwaukee County. Health officials tested several locations in the city for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. Although the county said cooling towers are the suspected source, it did not provide more information.

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Legionella bacteria cause Legionnaires’ Disease.

Legionella bacteria like a warm, wet environment. The water in cooling towers may be the ideal temperature range for Legionella growth, 20°-50°C (68°-122°F). With cooling towers, once the bacteria has taken hold, it can be blasted through the air conditioning duct work in water mist, where the contaminated mist can be inhaled by passersby. If someone inhales the bacteria who has a weakened immune system, the result can be deadly. The bacteria then colonizes in the lungs, causing Legionnaires’ disease, also referred to as Legionella pneumonia.

People in the vicinity of the cooling tower (maintenance workers, for example) are also at risk of contracting the illness.  Cooling towers use a fan to move air through a recirculated water system, allowing large amounts of water vapor and droplets to be introduced into the surrounding area.

The bottom line is that good maintenance is necessary to control the growth of Legionella bacteria. Hotels, hospitals and other public buildings have been linked to past outbreaks, and owners of these buildings have a duty to prevent this illness.

When the source of an outbreak can be traced to a specific building, the owner of that building is legally responsible (liable in legalese) for the illnesses caused by the bacterial contamination. This means that they can be sued by victims and their families in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against the owner of the building, a maintenance company (if separately owned) and possibly others.

Attorneys Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman are our lead lawyers for these claims. They have won millions for their clients, including a recent $3 million settlement for a family who lost a loved one. You can contact Fred and Eric for a free consultation here. They have experience with cases just like yours.

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Category: Legionnaires' Disease
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