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Water tested to see if bacteria is gone

February 02, 2005

OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) - Water samples were taken Tuesday to determine whether the bacteria that causes Legionnaire's disease has been successfully removed from the water system of a condominium complex where three residents came down with the disease, killing one, a county health official said.

County health officials first tested the water in the building after the first two cases were reported. Those tests indicated the presence of the bacteria at several points, prompting health officials to recommend disinfection of the water system, which was done over the weekend, said Debbie Goeller, a Worcester County health officer.

One of the three residents, Monica Flaherty, 50, of Silver Spring, died from the illness. Despite her death, health officials cannot force owners of the 245 units in the complex to stay away from their units, Goeller said.

Jim Ritter, a spokesman for the company that manages the complex, Legum & Norman Inc., said the condominiums are mostly vacation homes and most residents have opted not to use the units until the process is completed.

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The health department has not determined the specific cause of the infection but gave recommendations on how to disinfect the system, Ritter said.

"We did the disinfection and we're waiting for the health department to confirm that everything meets their requirements and is up to their specifications," Ritter said.

Legionnaires' disease is a bacterial infection of the lungs, caused by tainted water vapor in the air. The bacteria that cause it are found naturally in some water sources but can breed to unhealthy levels in water heaters and pipes.

The pneumonia-like illness, usually causes high fever, chills and a cough, though some victims also experience muscle aches, headaches and diarrhea.

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