Health Department Investigating Case of Legionnaires’ Disease at Westernport Apartment Complex

WESTERNPORT — The Allegany County Health Department is investigating one confirmed case of Legionnaires’ disease in a resident of Grandview Apartments, a senior apartment community in Westernport.

Personal details about the case, including the individual’s name, age and gender, will not be released.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella, which can be found in many different water sources — manmade and natural. People most at risk of getting the disease are the elderly, smokers and those with lung or kidney disease, diabetes, cancer or weakened immune systems because of diseases or medications.

Legionellosis is acquired by inhaling aerosols of water containing the Legionella bacteria. The disease is not passed from person to person. Legionellosis can be treated by commonly used antibiotics.

Signs of the disease are similar to pneumonia and can include a high fever, chills, chest pain and cough. Some people may also suffer from muscle aches and headaches. Symptoms appear two to 14 days after coming in contact with the bacteria.

Since Jan. 1, 139 cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been reported in Maryland; three of these were in Allegany County. A case also was confirmed a year ago at Moran Manor in Westernport. Each year, between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease in the United States.

The Allegany County Housing Authority and the health department are working together to assess the risk associated with the building. In the meantime, recommendations to apartment residents include:

  • Reducing contact with water sprays/mists.
  • Taking tub baths rather than showers.
  • Using bottled water or water that has been boiled for five minutes at a rolling boil for drinking, cooking and other oral consumption, including tooth-brushing.

It is very important to always use sterile or distilled water in respiratory equipment such as oxygen dispensers and nebulizers.

Residents or recent visitors to the apartment building who are currently ill with fever, cough and/or shortness of breath should seek attention by a health-care provider. Possible cases should be reported to the health department at 301-759-5093.

Individuals who aren’t ill do not need testing for Legionella infection.

For more information, go to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website at http://ideha.dhmh. or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc. gov/legionella.

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