Eleven People at Two Western Pennsylvania Nursing Homes Develop Legionnaires Disease


September 20, 2011

As a Pennsylvania nursing home lawyer, I was concerned to read about an outbreak of a water-borne disease in two Pittsburgh-area nursing homes. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, residents at two facilities in Turtle Creek, in the Pittsburgh suburbs, were diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease last week. Eight people fell ill at LGAR Health and Rehabilitation Center; three more patients were diagnosed at Hamilton Hills Personal Care Home. Three of the 11 patients had to be hospitalized. Because the disease is caused by a bacterium in water and spreads easily, both homes were using bottled water while they attempt to fix the problem and await test results.

Legionnaires' disease is life-threatening, particularly for children and the elderly. Rates of death for people who develop it in hospitals are as high as 50 percent. It is an infection with the bacteria Legionella, which is inhaled as water vapor from sources like showers, air-conditioners and humidifiers. Once it's in the body, victims develop a high fever and pneumonia-like symptoms that can include vomiting, diarrhea, confusion and even kidney impairment. No deaths in the Turtle Creek outbreaks were reported as of Sept. 15. However, the Tribune-Review added another victim to the total that day, reporting that the patient had previously been diagnosed with pneumonia. A spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department said the department had already seen 50 or 60 cases this year. Nursing homes are especially vulnerable, he said, because they may keep their water temperatures low to avoid scalding fragile patients. LGAR had already heated and flushed its water, WTAE reported, and had also installed a special copper ionization system to prevent future outbreaks.

It's pleasing to me as a Philadelphia medial malpractice lawyer that this nursing home is taking quick action to solve its Legionnaires' problem. Because this disease is transmitted by inhaling, it's not uncommon to see outbreaks affecting many, many people within range of the infected water supply. In a nursing home, a closed environment that patients rarely leave, this could mean an outbreak affecting nearly everyone in the home. And because the disease is especially hard on older people with health problems -- the kinds of health problems that require nursing home care -- a Legionnaires' disease outbreak could be life-threatening. Medical authorities agree that the disease is relatively easy to prevent, by keeping water supplies at safe temperatures. As a Philadelphia injury lawyer, I don't believe this is difficult for nursing homes to do -- and could make a huge difference for nursing home patients.

Based in Philadelphia, Rosenbaum & Associates represents nursing home patients and their families from across Pennsylvania. If you believe your loved one suffered an injury, illness or death as a result of a nursing home's negligence or abuse, don't hesitate to call us for a free consultation. You can reach us toll-free at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or send us a message through our website.

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