Legionnaires’ disease, a severe type of lung infection, is contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets (mist or vapor) that are contaminated with Legionella bacteria.
None of the four people who got sick stayed at the Crookston Inn and Convention Center (2200 University Avenue), but all of them visited the facility before they became ill during the last week of January. The four either attended an event or visited the hotel’s restaurant, called University Station.
Crookston is a town of about 8,000 in northeastern Minnesota, approximately 25 miles southeast of Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Focus on pool, spa area
Investigators for the MDH are working with hotel staff to determine if Legionella is present at the facility. Early indications point to the hotel’s pool and spa area as the possible source, since whirlpool jets can cause infected water to aerosolize.
Hotel management has temporarily closed the pool and spa area while it is being remediated, which includes cleaning and decontaminating the entire area.
MDH officials said it is possible that other cases associated to the hotel could emerge.
Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease epidemiology, prevention and control for the MDH, told the Crookston Times: “If you spent time at the hotel between Jan. 14 and Feb. 13 and are ill with undiagnosed pneumonia, or you develop symptoms in the two weeks following your visit, please see a health-care provider to be evaluated for possible Legionnaire’s disease.”
Hotel staff is contacting all guests who were at the hotel between Jan. 14 and Feb. 13 to inform them that they could have been exposed to Legionella.
If you have any questions about the situation, or even the disease, you can call the MDH at (651) 201-5414 or toll-free at (877) 676-5414.
Legionnaires’ disease typically develops within two to 10 days after exposure, and symptoms can resemble those of pneumonia or even the common flu, which is why it’s important to seek medical care.
The onset of symptoms generally produce the following:
- severe headaches
- muscle aches
- fever, which can be 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
By the second or third day, symptoms can worsen to include:
- coughing, which can produce mucus or even blood
- dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- chest pains (pleurisy)
- gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting)
- mental agitation and confusion.
Although Legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart.
Health-care providers in the area have been warned by the MDH to watch for patients presenting Legionnaires’ disease symptoms. The disease can be severe and even deadly, so timely diagnosis and treatment are imperative.
The illness cannot be spread from person to person, but it is easily treatable with antibiotics, if it is caught early enough.
According to the MDH, Minnesota had more than 150 cases in 2018. The department is currently investigating two cases that were diagnosed between November and January at Alomere Health hospital in Alexandria, which is a little more than 100 miles southeast of Fargo, North Dakota.
Most people who are exposed to Legionella bacteria do not develop Legionnaires’ disease. Those most likely to become ill are:
- people over the age of 50
- smokers, current or former
- anyone with a compromised immune system
- anyone with a chronic disease, such as diabetes or COPD (most commonly, emphysema or bronchitis).
If you have concerns about possible exposure, you should contact your health-care provider.
After Legionnaires has been diagnosed, hospitalization is often required, and in the most severe cases, complications can occur. Those complications can include:
- endocarditis: an infection of the inner lining of the heart that can affect the ability of the heart to maintain adequate blood flow throughout the body.
- kidney failure: Legionella toxins can damage the kidneys’ ability to eliminate waste from the blood, resulting in kidney failure.
- pericarditis: swelling of the pericardium, which is the primary membrane around the heart. This also can affect the ability of the heart to circulate blood throughout the body.
- respiratory failure: caused by changes to the lung tissue, or oxygen loss in arteries supplying the lungs.
- septic shock: can occur when Legionella produce toxins that enter the bloodstream and cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to the loss of adequate blood supply to the organs.
Elliot Olsen has decades of experience representing people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. You can contact him for a free consultation by filling out the following form and submitting it: