2018-02-09T08:17:24+00:00Pritzker Hageman, P.A.Fred Pritzker 45 S 7th St, #2950 Minneapolis, MN, 55402 U.S.A +1.612.338.0202

A  third staff member who works in Building 15 at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas has been diagnosed as being infected with Legionella pneumonia bacteria. Two other civilian staffers who worked in this building, a medical clinic, were diagnosed with legionellosis in August of 2017. Our law firm is investigating this outbreak.

Legionella pneumonia bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) is a bacteria that is commonly found in outdoors freshwater environments. It can become dangerous, however, when it is allowed to proliferate in the complex water systems of buildings. When the bacteria become airborne in the form of water vapor emanating from contaminated sources like cooling towers, hot tubs, decorative fountains, showers, or ice machines, it can cause one of two forms of legionellosis in people who breathe or aspirate the mist into their lungs: either Pontiac Fever, a mild flu-like infection that does not require hospitalization, or Legionnaires’ disease, a much more severe form of pneumonia that frequently requires a lengthy hospital stay and can lead to long-term medical complications in its victims.

Legionella in the Lungs

    Legionnella bacteria found in pneumonia patient.

According to the media source San Antonio Express-News, this third victim “fell ill with a Legionella infection” and is currently hospitalized. Curiously, this report states that none of the staffers “contracted Legionnaire’s disease, but all were treated for a Legionella infection in the hospital.” (1)

However, a second media source, KSAT, reports that these three employees did in fact contract Legionnaire’s disease, and that an outbreak was declared, per Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reporting requirements, since more than two cases of the illness had been reported within a 365-day period. (2)

Building 15 is located outside but near the main BAMC hospital. In August, after the first two cases were reported, the clinic in this building was initially relocated but then later reopened. Now it has once again been relocated while the source of the Legionella contamination is being investigated.

“The health and safety of our patients and staff is our top priority, and we are working diligently with local and regional public health officials to investigate this matter … We are not currently aware of any patients or clients who have moved through Building #15 who are exhibiting symptoms.” Robert Whetstone, BAMC spokesperson

Why is Legionnaires’ Disease So Dangerous?

Although healthy people who contract the mild form of legionellosis, Pontiac Fever, merely feel a little under the weather, Legionnaires’ disease is fatal in up to 50% of cases that occur within healthcare (nosocomial) settings. The elderly, smokers, and people who have chronic medical conditions like COPD, other respiratory illness, heart disease, or cancer are particularly susceptible to contracting the more serious Legionnaires’ disease when Legionella is allowed to grow in hospital water systems.

Presenting symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease include a cough, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal distress, chest or muscle pain, headache, or mental confusion / hallucinations. Long-term complications can include chronic fatigue, malaise, difficulties with concentration, joint pain, and muscle weakness.

Anyone who has worked at or been a patient of the Building 15 medical clinic who develops these symptoms should seek medical evaluation immediately.

Although dangerous, Legionnaire’s disease is a highly preventable illness. Those who contract it following exposure to Legionella disseminated in medical facilities may have grounds to file a Legionnaires’ disease lawsuit for recovery of medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We recommend you contact a Legionnaires’ disease lawyer to learn more about the complex issues involved and legal relief available.

Sources:
1. Sig Christenson. “BAMC finds third staffer with Legionnaire bacteria.” San Antonio Express-News. Web. Feb. 7, 2018.
2. Van Darden. “Legionella outbreak reported at Brooke Army Medical Center.” KSAT. Web. Feb. 7, 2018.