Ohio Nursing Home Legionnaires Outbreak Linked to 5 Deaths, 39 Illnesses

An outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease at an Ohio nursing home has reportedly left five people dead and sickened 39 others.  

Officials from the Ohio Department of Health indicate that bacteria in an air conditioning cooling tower and water sources at the Wesley Ridge Retirement Community in Reynoldsburg may be responsible for the nursing home Legionnaires outbreak.

The disease caused pneumonia-like symptoms among residents, who have been advised not to drink the water at the assisted living community.

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The illnesses have occurred since July, with affected individuals ranging in age from 63 to 99 years old.

Legionnaire’s disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection that hospitalizes between 8,000 and 18,000 people each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It produces symptoms similar to those of pneumonia, which can include high fever, chills, muscle aches and cough. The disease is fatal in 5% to 30% of cases, but poses a particular risk among elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

Legionalla bacteria may be found in warm water, and can be present in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks and large plumbing or air conditioning systems. It is contracted by breathing in mist or vapor contaminated with the bacteria, but cannot be transmitted from one person to another.

The nursing home says it is combating the outbreak by superheating and hyper-chlorinating the water. It is also adding filters to all of the shower heads. Residents will not be allowed to drink the water there until the water tests free of Legionalla bacteria.

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