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Legionnaires' Outbreak Linked to Deaths at Manhattan Nursing Home

Four deaths at a Manhattan nursing home have highlighted the risk of Legionnaire’s disease for nursing home residents, according to nursing home neglect lawyers.

New York State officials recently investigated eight cases of Legionnaires’ disease at the Amsterdam Nursing Home. Four of the eight people sickened died, including two who had a confirmed diagnosis of the disease. A third person, who didn’t die, also tested positive for the pulmonary disease typically carried by water. The other five individuals investigated showed preliminary evidence of having the disease. The residents who died had comorbid health conditions, which may have put them at higher risk of complications.

The nursing home installed filters last week for the ice machine and for drinking water. Additional FDA-approved filters were installed last year on faucets and shower heads based on New York Department of Health recommendations. Despite the new filters, the nursing home continues to provide bottled water for both drinking and sanitary uses, as additional water testing is still pending. The Health Department has committed to ongoing water surveillance and testing at the beleaguered nursing home.

Incidence of Legionnaires' is Rising

A February 2022 study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases found that the incidence of Legionnaires’ disease has rising for over 15 years. People can contract the lung infection by breathing in small droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria. Elderly individuals and those with underlying health conditions are vulnerable to contract the infection and more likely to become seriously ill from Legionnaires disease.

According to the CDC, a Legionnaires’ outbreak is defined as two or more cases associated with the same possible source during a 12-month time. An outbreak of Legionnaires demands a full investigation by public health officials, often working in conjunction with other professionals such as engineers and epidemiologists.

Some states have passed legislation aimed at protecting nursing home residents from Legionnaires disease and waterborne illnesses. Illinois signed a bill into law this past May requiring public water supply operators to notify senior living and health care facilities of anticipated water supply disruptions that could result in quality and microbial risks.

Failure to Implement Standards Can Result in Preventable Outbreaks

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers developed Legionellosis risk management standards in 2018 for building water systems. Proper maintenance of water systems, such as cooling towers, faucet heads or ice machines is critical in preventing the disease. A nursing home neglect lawyer states that facilities who fail to implement these standards put residents at unnecessary risk and may be liable if residents contract the disease.

According to the CDC, about 9 out of 10 Legionnaires’ outbreaks could have been prevented with an effective water management. Typically, facility managers oversee a nursing home’s water management program and are responsible for the prevention of outbreaks. Legionella is a type of bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, and it is found naturally in the environment. The bacteria can proliferate in warm water and cause illness, according to the DOH. Nursing homes that fail to implement an adequate water system maintenance program may be liable for if residents contract Legionnaires.

Common Water Management Problems

  • According to a nursing home neglect lawyer, many nursing homes fail to implement processes to ensure a safe water system. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) analyzed reports of Legionnaires diseases to identify deficiencies that led to outbreaks. According to their analysis, the most water management program deficiencies are:
  1. Facility has no water management program in place
  2. Water management program was implemented deficiently
  3. Water management program has a content deficiency
  4. Human error causes an environmental deficiency
  5. An equipment error results in environmental deficiency
  6. A process error causes an environmental deficiency

What are Common Sources of Exposure for Legionella at Nursing Homes and Senior Communities?

  1. Nursing homes must consider multiple water sources that may contain the harmful bacteria. Special consideration must be paid to the following possible sources of exposure:
  2. Potable water, such as shower heads or sink faucets
  3. Cooling towers
  4. Hydrotherapy tubs or hot tubs
  5. Decorative fountains

Swift Action Required for Suspected Exposures

Facilities must act quickly to protect patients if a nursing home’s water source is suspected as a likely source for Legionella. Immediate actions should include:

  • Restricting showers and changing to sponge baths
  • Installing microbial filters on showerheads or faucets
  • Avoiding use of hydrotherapy tubs
  • Turn off decorative fountains
  • Avoiding use of water from sinks and tub faucets in patient rooms
  • Avoiding consumption of non-sterile ice for patients at risk for aspiration
  • Halting new admissions or closing an affected area of the building
  • Notifying patients and their families
  • Implementing other contingency actions as dictated by the facility’s water management program.

Nursing homes or other senior living communities that fail to respond quickly to legionella exposures can put their patients at great risk for harm.

Contact the Nursing Home Neglect Lawyers at the Wieand Law Firm

Nursing homes should honor their commitment to keep the vulnerable residents in their care safe from preventable illness and injury. When nursing homes fail to live up to that commitment, the nursing home neglect lawyers on our team are here to help. Call 888-789-3161 or send a message via the online form to speak to one of our attorneys for a case review and evaluation.


Contact the Nursing Home Neglect Lawyers at Our Firm

The nursing home neglect lawyers at our firm understand the plight of the nation’s nursing home residents. No one should be subject to neglect and substandard care in long term care facilities. Our attorneys will partner with you to take a stand against underperforming nursing homes and seek compensation for their injuries. Call us today or send us a message to speak directly with an nursing home neglect lawyer.

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