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Legionella leads to water precautions at Loyalton

January 09, 2007|By PEPPER BALLARD

A resident of Loyalton of Hagerstown was found to have Legionella, forcing the assisted-living facility near Hagerstown Community College to take extra precautions with its 85 residents, Christine Ogden, the facility's executive director, said Tuesday.

"One of our residents was diagnosed with Legionella, and we don't know where it came from," Ogden said.

Legionella is the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease, a severe pneumonia that causes 8,000 to 18,000 hospitalizations a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bacteria usually are found in water, and they thrive in areas such as hot tubs, cooling towers and parts of air-conditioning systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ogden said Washington County Health Department officials don't believe Loyalton was the source of the bacteria, but asked that the assisted-living facility take extra precautions with its use of water.

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The health department recommended that residents don't shower or brush their teeth, Ogden said.

She said no other residents or staff are showing pneumonia-like symptoms indicative of the illness. The resident who was diagnosed with Legionella is being treated at a local hospital, where Ogden said he is doing well.

Elizabeth Nuckles, communicable disease program manager for the county health department, said Thursday that she "can't comment specifically about Legionella at Loyalton."

She did say, generally, Legionella "is something that you inhale into your lungs. It has to be an aerosolized mist," such as the mist created in a hot tub or from a humidifier.

"It is absolutely not something you can get person to person," she said.

The water at the facility is being treated and will be tested before a final treatment, Ogden said.

"We're just trying to be as cautious as possible," she said.

As many as 30 percent of people with Legionnaires' disease die from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bacteria got its name in 1976 when many people at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia fell ill.

Staff writer Karen Hanna contributed to this story.

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