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An Albert Lea outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease has added a third victim, and preliminary tests showed the presence of Legionella bacteria at St. John’s Fountain Lake, a senior community in the Minnesota city.

The three illnesses at St. John’s Fountain Lake have been confirmed by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) since the beginning of June. The first illness was recorded in early June, and two more illnesses have been reported since mid-July.

None of the three victims are still hospitalized, according to St. John’s Fountain Lake CEO Scot Spates.

The full assessment of the facility’s water supply by consultant Innovational Concepts, Inc. is expected before the end of this week. It is presumed that recommendations will be included on on how the facility can end the outbreak and prevent further incidents.

Albert Lea outbreak: results this week

Despite the Legionella finding, the nursing home has yet to be definitively named as the source for the three illnesses. Minnesota Valley Testing, which is handling the testing of the water samples, hopes to identify the strains of Legionella this week and compare them to cultures taken from the patients.

Bottled water has been supplied to residents and employees of St. John’s Fountain Lake. In addition, they have been advised not to the drink the water until the process has been completed.

Residents also have been warned to avoid using ice machines and water sprayers and to take only sponge baths until contractors have completed remediation and testing shows the facility is free of Legionella.

St. John’s Fountain Lake, which has approximately 100 residents, opened last October. The facility provides independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing care and short-term care for seniors.

Albert Lea outbreak hits 3; St. John's positive for Legionella

An Albert Lea outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease has added a third victim, and tests show the presence of Legionella at St. John’s Fountain Lake.

Albert Lea outbreak: Legionnaires’ FAQs

What is it?
Legionnaires’ disease is similar to other types of pneumonia, an infection of the air sacs in one or both lungs that can produce fluid in the lungs. It also goes by the names of legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease resemble symptoms of flu, such as:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • fever
  • muscle pains
  • severe headaches
  • gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, etc.).

Who is at the greatest risk?
Anyone can contract Legionnaires’ disease, but those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 years old or older
  • smokers, both former and current
  • heavy drinkers of alcohol
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with suppressed immune systems
  • people who have received organ transplants
  • anyone on a  specific drug protocol (for instance, corticosteroids).

How prevalent is it?
An estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Further, about 10 percent of people infected with Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.

How is the bacteria contracted?
Legionella
 bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets (vapor or mist). The bacteria grow best in warm water, and they are found primarily in human-made environments.

Outbreaks have been linked to a number of sources, such as:

  • air-conditioning system cooling towers
  • large plumbing systems
  • large water systems (nursing homes, hospitals, hotels, cruise ships, etc.)
  • bathroom faucets and showers
  • hot water heaters and tanks
  • swimming pools, hot tubs and whirlpools
  • physical-therapy equipment
  • mist machines (produce sections of grocery stores)
  • hand-held sprayers
  • decorative fountains.

Albert Lea outbreak: disease on the increase