The Country Meadows retirement community in Frederick County, Maryland is testing its water systems after a resident there was diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease approximately two weeks ago. Legionnaire’s disease (also called legionellosis) is a severe form of pneumonia which is often fatal when it strikes the elderly (people over 50), smokers, those with compromised immune systems, or people with underlying medical conditions such as respiratory disease, diabetes, or cancer.

Legionella Pneumophila Testing
Testing for Legionella pneumophila Bacteria (CDC)

Kelly Kuntz, executive director of communications for Country Meadows, told the press that this resident developed pneumonia after returning to the retirement home from the hospital. Subsequent tests ascertained that the resident had in fact contracted Legionnaire’s disease:

“We are not sure if the resident picked it up from Country Meadows or another location … But we contacted the department of health, immediately began testing the water and put water restrictions in place. We are also trucking in bottled water to be used for consumption, and installed special shower heads that will filter out bacteria.” (1)

No other residents have, to date, contracted the illness. Results from preliminary environmental tests at the retirement facility showed trace amounts of Legionella pneumonia bacteria in the water system. The results of additional tests performed after a remedial chlorination process are still pending.

Legionnaire’s Disease in Retirement Centers

Legionnaire’s disease is contracted when people breathe in or aspirate water vapor that has been contaminated with Legionella pneumonia bacteria. Within an incubation period of 2-14 days, the bacteria invades the lungs and produces pneumonia-like symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, high fever muscle aches, and headaches. 5-30% of those who contract Legionnaire’s disease will die; this number, however can rise to up to 50% when the disease strikes within a nosocomial (healthcare / hospital) environment.

Legionella Bacteria
Legionella pneumophila bacteria under a magnification of 6500X. Breathing in or aspirating Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ pneumonia.

Legionnaire’s disease is largely preventable if facility administrators proactively maintain their water systems and regularly test them for the presence of Legionella bacteria. If retirement centers have not adequately maintained their water systems (as is required by law), then they may become liable for damages in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits should one of their residents contract Legionnaire’s disease.

Our legal team at Pritzker Hageman law firm has successfully represented victims of Legionnaire’s disease outbreaks at nursing homes and other senior residential facilities. A lawsuit against a senior living center for compensation can involve complex legal and medical issues. We recommend you contact a Legionnaires’ diseae lawyer to help you understand and protect your legal rights.

Bad Bug Law Team - Pritzker

Source:

  1. Panuska, Mallory. “Case of Legionnaires’ disease prompts restrictions at Frederick retirement community.” The Frederick News-Post. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.