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Elliot Olsen has decades of experience representing people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease, and he has regained millions of dollars for them. If you or a family member have become ill with Legionnaires’ disease in Ohio, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation, or complete the following:

Two employees at the Northland Opportunity Center in Columbus, Ohio, were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Both employees are recovering, the newspaper reported, and one of them is believed to have returned to work.

Officials at the Northland Opportunity Center, which is in the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services building (1721 Northland Park Avenue), shut down the water fountains under the advisement of Franklin County Public Health officials.

The Northland Opportunity Center “remains open, but the fountains remain off out of caution,” said Tyler Lowry, director of public affairs for Franklin County.

Columbus Public Health assessed the building, county employees were notified of the illnesses, and notices were posted at the Northland Opportunity Center.

The Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services is a county, state and federally supported agency responsible for basic financial, medical, and social services programs.

Employees or visitors to the building who have recently suffered from or are currently exhibiting pneumonia- or flu-like symptoms should seek immediate medical attention from their doctor.

Two Northland Opportunity Center employees contract Legionnaires' disease

Two employees at Northland Opportunity Center in Columbus, Ohio, were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

Northland Opportunity Center: Legionnaires’ no stranger to Ohio

The state of Ohio has experienced a handful of Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks the past few years:

  • In late May, two veterans were sickened after visiting the Chalmers P. Wylie V.A. Ambulatory Care Center in Columbus.
  • In July, two residents of The Manor at Whitehall, a nursing home, tested positive for Legionella.
  • In June, two inmates at Franklin Medical Center in Columbus contracted Legionnaires’ disease. The Franklin Medical Center is Ohio’s prison hospital.
  • In September of last year, two people – a student and an employee – became ill with Legionnaires’ at The Ohio State University campus in Columbus.
  • In 2015, a rare subgroup of Legionnaires’ disease sickened 19 at the Lucas County Job and Family Services building in Toledo, and 11 employees needed to be hospitalized. The serogroup-5 outbreak – which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rarely results in human infections – was traced to the cooling tower. (Note: Legionella pneumophila, the bacteria responsible for Legionnaires’ disease, is divided into 15 serogroups [or species], with serogroup 1 being the most common disease-causing type.)
  • In 2013, the largest Legionnaires’ outbreak in state history happened when 45 people were sickened – and six of them died – at the Wesley Ridge Retirement Community in Reynoldsburg, a suburb of Columbus. A cooling tower and potable water were the sources for that outbreak.

Northland Opportunity Center: Legionnaires’ info

Legionnaires’ disease is also known as legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia. It is a severe type of pneumonia, or lung infection.

An estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria happen yearly in the United States, according to the CDC. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Ten percent of people who become infected with Legionnaires’ disease will die.

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.

Disease symptoms
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to those of other types of pneumonia and even flu, which is why the disease often goes under-reported. Symptoms generally include:

  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • high fever
  • muscle pains
  • severe headaches
  • gastrointestinal problems (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, etc.).

High-risk categories
Anyone can contract Legionnaires’ disease, but those most susceptible to infection include:

  • people 50 or older
  • smokers, current and former
  • heavy consumers of alcohol
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • organ-transplant recipients
  • anyone on a specific drug protocol (corticosteroids, for instance).

Legionella sources
Outbreaks have been linked to numerous sources, including:

  • the plumbing systems of large buildings
  • the cooling towers of large air conditioning systems
  • bathroom showers and faucets
  • hot-water heaters and tanks
  • swimming pools, whirlpools, and hot tubs
  • decorative fountains
  • mist machines, like those used in the produce sections of grocery stores
  • hand-held sprayers
  • physical-therapy equipment
  • water systems, like those in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels.

Warmer weather a problem
Legionnaires’ disease is “an emerging disease in the sense that the number of recorded cases of Legionnaires’ in the United States continues to increase,” Laura Cooley, MD, MPH from the CDC’s Respiratory Diseases Branch, said in a 2017 interview.

Cooley said the increase of Legionnaires’ disease cases can be attributed to a rise in the susceptibility of the population. That is, more and more people are on immunosuppressive medications.

In addition, there could be more Legionella in the environment, because warmer temperatures create the right conditions for bacterial growth.

Seventeen of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001, according to both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The four warmest years on record all have occurred since 2014, with last year being the warmest non-El Niño year ever recorded.

This year is shaping up to be the fourth-hottest year on record. The only years hotter were 2015, 2016, and 2017.