Health officials recently confirmed that two residents at Stella Maris, an independent-living apartment complex in suburban Baltimore, were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. No information was provided on the two patients.
Water restrictions were put in place at St. Elizabeth Hall, which has a separate water system on the Stella Maris campus. Stella Maris officials said they will continue to test the water, as well as the cooling and heating systems, for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.
Stella Maris is a nonprofit, long-term care facility in Timonium, Maryland, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. The facility offers numerous services: medical care, rehabilitation, inpatient and home hospice care, long-term and dementia care, home health and personal care, counseling and bereavement services, pastoral care, as well as a senior day center.
Stella Maris: test results pending
The Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) collected water samples from the complex, and results of those tests are pending, according to an email HHS public information officer Elyn Garrett-Jones sent to the Baltimore Sun.
Legionella can make anyone sick, but people most susceptible to infection include:
- anyone 50 or older
- smokers, current or former
- anyone with a chronic lung disease or COPD (most commonly, emphysema or bronchitis)
- heavy drinkers of alcohol
- anyone with a weakened immune system
- organ-transplant recipients
- anyone on a specific drug protocol, such as corticosteroids.
Stella Maris: Legionella sources
Legionella are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets (mist or vapor). The bacteria grow best in warm water, and they are found primarily in human-made environments.
Legionnaires’ disease and outbreaks have been linked to a number of sources, including:
- water systems, like those in nursing homes, hospitals, and hotels
- large plumbing systems
- bathroom showers and faucets
- hot-water tanks and heaters
- swimming pools, whirlpools, hot tubs
- decorative fountains
- mist machines, like those in the produce sections of grocery stores
- hand-held sprayers
- physical-therapy equipment
- cooling towers of air conditioning systems.