Legionnaires’ Disease in nursing homes
Legionnaires’ disease in nursing homes is caused by a type of bacteria that can get into the water supply. In nursing homes, the bacteria can proliferate in cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, or decorative fountains. There are many species of Legionella, but the most common is Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1. In warm, stagnant waters Legionella can multiply and cause pneumonia when residents inhale it during showering or while drinking water. Legionnaires’ disease in nursing homes is particularly dangerous, because older adults are more susceptible to this type of illness due to age, compromised immune systems, or comorbid illnesses.
What are the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia. Individuals with Legionnaires’ disease can experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, a high fever, headaches, and muscle aches. While these symptoms often start a few days following exposure, they can take weeks to begin.
Complications of Legionnaires’ disease
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, most people who contract Legionnaires’ disease are hospitalized and approximately 40% are hospitalized. Some people with this type of pneumonia suffer with lung failure because of the illness. Legionnaires’ is fatal for approximately 10% of people who contract it.
How is Legionnaires diagnosed and treated?
Legionnaires’ disease is sometimes overlooked because the symptoms are like the flu or other types of bacterial pneumonia. A doctor may order a chest X-ray to look for pneumonia. If the doctor believes that the patient has Legionnaire’s disease, they can order a urine or sputum (phlegm) culture to determine if the symptoms are caused by Legionnaires’. A patient with Legionnaires’ is most often treated with antibiotics.
Can a nursing home be held liable for a Legionella outbreak?
Effective June 2, 2017. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) required nursing homes to enact water management policies to monitor their water supply and protect residents against a legionella and other pathogens. Facilities who fail to comply can be cited for non-compliance with this federal standard.
From a legal perspective, a facility may be liable for an outbreak if the nursing home knew or should have known about a problem in the water and failed to maintain or correct the water system. In other words, if the nursing home’s negligent actions resulted in a confirmed diagnosis of Legionnaires’ disease, you may have a valid claim.
In one notable case, a nursing home in Toronto, Ontario suffered an outbreak in which 23 residents died and additional 112 were sickened. This outbreak resulted in a $600 million class action lawsuit against the facility.
If you have received a diagnosis of Legionnaires’ Disease, you may feel overwhelmed and not know where to turn. Legionnaires’ disease in nursing homes can devastate lives unexpectedly. We recommend seeking legal counsel as soon as possible. A nursing home lawyer at our firm can provide a free consultation and provide you with your legal options regarding a claim. Our attorneys are experts in personal injury litigation and will advocate tirelessly on your behalf.