You can’t turn on the news these days without hearing or reading about Coronavirus or COVID-19. Legionnaires’ disease, however, continues to be an unsolvable puzzle for health-care providers in Columbus, Ohio.
Arlington Court Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center in suburban Columbus recently became the seventh Columbus-area facility to report a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak since May 2019. The nursing facility, located about 6 miles northwest of downtown Columbus, reported two cases of the pneumonia-like illness last month, making the total three cases since last October.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak as an occurrence of two or more LD illnesses in the same place at about the same time. Legionnaires’ disease is one of two legionellosis diseases caused when one inhales small droplets of water that contain Legionella bacteria; the other is Pontiac fever, a much milder illness.
A problematic eight months
Although hospitals and nursing homes have provisions in place to bolster oversight of building waters systems and medical equipment that could expose patients to harmful Legionella, Columbus-area facilities have reported numerous issues over the past eight months:
- In January, a 45-year-old resident of Pataskala Oaks Care Center was diagnosed with LD. Officials responded by turning off water fountains and installing filters on shower heads, as well as hyper-chlorinating the water system. The Legionella source is unknown.
- Last October and November, three people who received treatment at Mount Carmel East Hospital on the east side of Columbus were infected with LD. It was the third Legionella problem for the Mount Carmel Health System in 2019.
- In August, officials said elevated levels of Legionella were detected in the water supply at Marian Hall on the Mount Carmel College of Nursing’s Franklinton campus. Construction disrupted the building’s water supply, and subsequent tests uncovered the presence of Legionella. No illnesses were reported.
- In July, the Delaware General Health District investigated a single confirmed case of LD at Country-View of Sunbury Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home about 25 miles north of Columbus.
- In June, an inmate at Franklin Medical Center in Columbus was hospitalized after contracting LD. It was the fifth LD case at the corrections medical center since 2017.
- On May 31, in Ohio’s largest LD outbreak last year, Franklin County Public Health confirmed 16 patients were diagnosed with the disease at Mount Carmel Grove City Hospital. One victim died. The outbreak occurred a little more than a month after the seven-floor, $361 million hospital opened on April 28.
LD, coronavirus similar
A recent article on NPRIllinois.org comparing Legionnaires’ disease to coronavirus reported that “experts say there’s another, more common disease that ought to be getting more attention.” The headline? “In Illinois, Legionnaires’ disease more prevalent than Coronavirus.”
Their symptoms are similar:
Coronavirus symptoms develop within two to 14 days after exposure and are flu-like:
- respiratory problems
- high fever
- shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- breathing difficulties.
In the most serious cases, a coronavirus infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.
Legionnaires’ disease symptoms develop two to 10 days after exposure to Legionella and frequently begins with the following symptoms:
- respiratory problems
- high fever
- coughing, which can bring up mucus and sometimes blood
- shortness of breath
- chest pains
- severe headaches
- muscle aches
- gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- confusion and other mental changes.
In the most serious LD cases, complications can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, and death.
The most significant difference between the two is that coronavirus can be spread person-to-person; Legionnaires’ disease cannot.
2018 a difficult one for Ohio
In 2018, Ohio was among the nation’s leaders in legionellosis cases with 903, the most recent year that statistics are available. Ohio trailed only New York, which had 1,424 cases (654 in New York City).
Franklin County reported 208 of the 903 cases in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Health, the most of any county. Franklin is the largest of the three counties encompassing Columbus; Delaware and Fairfield are the others.
Free consultation with
Elliot Olsen has decades of experience as a Legionnaires lawyer. If you believe you might have cause to pursue a Legionnaires lawsuit, you can contact Elliot for a free consultation by filling out the following form and submitting it: