Recent Legionnaires’ Outbreaks not Uncommon; States Work to Protect Public

September 10, 2015|11:59 a.m.| Scott Briscoe

There have been several high-profile outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease recently, including at a state veterans’ home in Illinois, at San Quentin State Prison in California, and an outbreak in a hotel in New York City. While the outbreaks are cause for concern, according to an Associated Press interview with a CDC epidemiologist, this year is not atypical in the number or severity of outbreaks.

The disease is a type of pneumonia and is most dangerous for the elderly and those with chronic diseases or who otherwise have compromised immune systems. The bacteria thrives in warm water, which is why the United States sees the most outbreaks in late summer. The most common method of contraction is to inhale mist from contaminated water systems, but it does not spread from person-to-person contact.

New York has responded quickly with a policy remedy that requires building owners to register cooling towers on their buildings, inspect towers quarterly, and develop and implement a maintenance plan to prevent contamination. The New York State Department of Health also has extensive online resources on Legionnaires’ disease, including a guide for hospitals and a guide for nursing homes.

The Florida Department of Health and the Southern Nevada Health District also has extensive online resources, including Florida’s “Guidelines for the Surveillance, Investigation, and Control of Legionnaires’ Disease in Florida,” and a detailed slide deck from Southern Nevada.