The first Legionnaires’ disease outbreak of 2019 has claimed a life after two patients at Phoebe Richland Health Care Center in Richlandtown, Pennsylvania, were confirmed with the deadly respiratory illness.
The two patients came to Phoebe Richland from two area hospitals. They were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease on Jan. 2 and Jan. 5.
The patient who died had multiple contributing health factors, according to a statement released by Phoebe Richland officials. The other patient is in stable condition.
No other information was provided on either patient.
Phoebe Richland: testing begins
The statement by Phoebe Richland officials stated that they are working with the Bucks County Health Department to determine if the facility is the source of the Legionella that infected the residents.
“We have engaged an outside vendor to conduct specialized water testing beyond our annual testing, which is performed in accordance to our water-management policies,” the statement read. “In the event that our campus is determined to be the source of the Legionella bacteria, we are taking measures to locate and eliminate any potential source of Legionella.”
Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Health Department, told WFMZ-TV that water samples were taken from different tap waters and shower heads at Phoebe Richland but the results won’t be known for “a few weeks.”
Phoebe Richland is located at 108 S. Main Street in Richlandtown, about 50 miles north of Philadelphia. The facility offers long-term care, short-term rehab, memory support services, and respite care.
Anyone can become ill from Legionella, but those most susceptible to infection from the bacteria include:
- people 50 or older
- smokers, current or former
- people with a chronic lung disease or COPD (most commonly, emphysema or bronchitis)
- people with a weakened immune system
- organ-transplant recipients
- people on a specific drug protocol, such as corticosteroids
Phoebe Richland: Legionella hosts
Outbreaks and clusters (see definition below) of Legionnaires’ disease have been linked to a number of sources, such as:
- water systems, like those used in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
- large plumbing systems
- hot-water tanks and heaters
- cooling towers of air conditioning systems
- physical-therapy equipment
- swimming pools, whirlpools, hot tubs
- bathroom showers and faucets
- mist machines, like those used in the produce sections of grocery stores
- hand-held sprayers
- decorative fountains.
(Note: The term “cluster” is used if multiple cases of Legionnaires’ disease are merely linked in time and space but no common source is found. The term “outbreak” is used if a common source is found for the illnesses. Additionally, the World Health Organization defines an “outbreak” as the “occurrence of cases of disease in excess of what would normally be expected in a defined community, geographical area or season.”)
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: