Water testing continues at St. John’s

Published 11:29 pm Friday, August 10, 2018

Total Legionnaires’ cases up to 4


Water testing is continuing at St. John’s on Fountain Lake as the assisted living facility continues investigating a series of Legionnaires’ cases.

The consulting company the facility hired, Innovational Concepts, is sending the water samples to CDC-certified lab Minnesota Valley Testing in New Ulm. Results are expected the middle of next week.

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Testing continues after a fourth person with connections to St. John’s tested positive for Legionella July 30. The person, whose identity has not been released, experienced symptoms since July 23, said Minnesota Department of Health information officer Doug Schultz.

The first resident’s symptoms began in early June, and the second resident’s symptoms were reported to the Minnesota Department of Health on July 19. The third case was reported July 21.

All four people were not hospitalized as of late Friday morning. 

St. John’s Administrator Scot Spates said they were not sure why a fourth person with connections to the facility tested positive for the disease.

“The exit to the cooling tower is a locked door, so this doesn’t make sense to us,” he said.

St. John’s on Fountain Lake includes assisted living, independent living and nursing home facilities.

Spates said the water in the Waters Edge Independent Living building was treated Wednesday and Thursday, “starting at the water main and then flushing the chemical through all water lines in the building. Water samples were taken (Friday) and sent to Minnesota Valley Testing.”

The nursing home, assisted living and town center water will be treated Monday and Tuesday.

“These three buildings are serviced by the same water main,” he said. “Water samples will be taken on (Wednesday) and sent to Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories for testing.”

Spates expects lab results to be released by Friday.

“I feel confident that the chemical treatment … will eliminate any Legionella in the water, but we will know for certain after we have results from the lab,” he said. “St. John’s will continue with the drinking water restriction until all four buildings have been treated and tested.”

St. John’s is flushing water lines in all empty rooms on an every-other-day basis until the issue is resolved.

“This was a recommendation from the Minnesota Department of Health,” Spates said.

Bottled water has been given to residents, who have been advised not to drink the water until the process has finished. Residents last month were advised to take only sponge baths, not use ice machines and not use water sprayers until the process is completed.

Filters have been installed on shower heads so residents can still use the showers.

Faucets have been flushed every other day. The facility’s cooling tower has been tested three times.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of bacterial pneumonia that can be severe, making prompt diagnosis and antibiotic treatment important, the Health Department said. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, chills, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and coughing. The disease is spread by inhaling aerosols from water sources containing Legionella bacteria, and it is not spread from person to person.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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