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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 contracted Legionnaires’ disease in Pinellas County, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation, or complete the following:

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County (DOH-Pinellas) announced that it is investigating two Legionnaires’ disease cases in the same apartment community.

Health officials said that Florida state law does not allow the department to reveal the location of an active investigation.

In addition, no information was provided on the ages, genders, or conditions of the two patients.

Pinellas County: higher temps

In a 2017 interview, Laura Cooley of the CDC’s Respiratory Diseases Branch called Legionnaires’ disease “an emerging disease in the sense that the number of recorded cases of Legionnaires in the United States continues to increase.” Cooley went on to say that there could be more Legionella – the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease – in the environment, because warmer temperatures create ideal conditions for bacterial growth.

That could be true for Pinellas County, which is part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area. The region just experienced one of its warmest Septembers ever.

According to the Bay News 9 weather blog, Tampa had an average temperature of 85.9 degrees, 4.2 degrees above normal. Other average temps for the area: St. Petersburg averaged 84.4, Clearwater 83.8, Lakeland 83.8, Ruskin 83.0, and Bradenton 82.6.

Some of the warmest temperatures ever recorded in Tampa occurred last month, despite 50 percent more rain than usual (rain usually produces cooler temps).

Two Legionnaires cases confirmed in Pinellas County, Florida

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County said it is investigating two Legionnaires’ disease cases in the same apartment community. (Florida state law does not allow the department to reveal the location of an active investigation.)

Pinellas County: not alone

Pinellas County isn’t alone when it comes to warmer temperatures. Across the United States, 17 of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The four warmest years on record have happened since 2014, with 2017 being the warmest non-El Niño year. And this year is shaping up to be the fourth-hottest year on record – the only hotter years were 2015, ’16 and ’17.

Pinellas County: symptoms

Since the exact area of the Pinellas County illnesses is unknown, health officials have advised that if you live in, work in, or travel through the county and are feeling flu-like symptoms, you should see your doctor out of an abundance of caution.

Symptoms for which you should be on the lookout are similar to those of pneumonia, and they can even resemble those of flu (influenza):

  • chills and fever, which could be 104 degrees or higher
  • severe headaches
  • muscle pains
  • no appetite.

After the first few days, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing, which is called pleuritic chest pain and occurs because the lungs are inflamed
  • shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • coughing, which can bring up mucus or blood
  • mental confusion or agitation
  • diarrhea, nausea and vomiting (about one-third of all Legionnaires’ disease cases result in gastrointestinal problems).

Pinellas County: more on Legionnaires

Legionnaires’ disease is also known as legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia. It is a severe type of lung infection, although treatable with antibiotics, if diagnosed early.

If not diagnosed early, however, Legionnaires’ disease can lead to severe complications. Although it primarily affects the lungs, it can cause infections in wounds and other parts of the body, including the heart. It can also lead to a number of life-threatening complications, including respiratory failure, septic shock, and acute kidney failure.

Not easily self-diagnosed
According to the CDC, an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur each year in the United States. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.

About one in 10 people who gets sick from Legionnaires’ disease will perish.

High-risk categories
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick, although anyone can become ill from the bacteria. People most susceptible to infection include:

  • anyone 50 or older
  • smokers, current or former
  • heavy drinkers of alcohol
  • people with chronic lung disease (COPD, most commonly bronchitis or emphysema)
  • anyone with a weakened immune system
  • organ-transplant recipients
  • anyone on a specific drug protocol (for instance, corticosteroids).

Legionella sources
Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets, usually in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria grow best in warm water, and they are found primarily in human-made environments.

Outbreaks have been linked to numerous sources, including:

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