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Infection Control News

A local Legionnaires outbreak has turned deadly and we’d like to take this opportunity to review what causes Legionnaires and how to prevent it.

Legionella

The recent outbreak has been responsible for 5 deaths and at least an additional 22 illnesses. Symptoms initially include fever, muscle pain, and headache. These can progress to shortness of breath, cough, nausea, and confusion. Most of the cases have been linked to those who either live in or have traveled to Union County, NJ. New Jersey health officials are investigating but a source or sources for the outbreak have not been found.

What Causes Legionnaires?

Legionnaires is caused by the bacterium Legionella. Legionella is present in the outdoor environment; usually with little consequence. When introduced to a water source, especially a warm water source, they can multiply and become a hazard to humans. Legionnaires can cause respiratory failure, kidney failure and septic shock. Transmission usually occurs when infected water droplets are inhaled.

The most common transmission methods:

  • Cooling towers for air conditioning units (These are usually found in large buildings and are different from your home or car AC)
  • Water systems in hotels, hospitals and nursing homes
  • Swimming Pools
  • Grocery store mist machines

Who’s At Risk?

Anyone who inhales contaminated droplets can be infected but those most at risk are: smokers, those with chronic lung conditions or lung cancer, individuals with compromised immune systems and anyone over 50 years old.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Legionnaires?

The key to preventing an outbreak is to have a a system in place for overall facility hygiene and a Legionella Water treatment plan. To asses your risk visit the CDC checklist and toolkit here.

Infection Control Technologies, (ICT) a division of Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) is one of the nation’s leading Building Hygiene contractors. ICT provides Facility Hygiene Services and Emergency Decontamination for some of the nation’s most respected real estate and Risk Management Professionals, Health Care, Municipalities, Institutions, Food Safety, Transportation, and government organizations.