Legionnaires’ outbreak considered to be over

Published 10:53 pm Friday, September 7, 2018

The outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at St. John’s on Fountain Lake is thought to be over after zero cases were reported in at least three weeks.

“This is behind us now, which is really good,” said St. John’s CEO Scot Spates.

The outbreak was ended after zero cases were reported for more than 10 days — the maximum incubation period for the disease.

Spates expects chlorine levels to be monitored in the facility’s water main, sinks, showers and residents’ apartments on a monthly basis for at least six months to one year to ensure amounts are high enough to kill bacteria.

“It will be something that we just do on a regular basis,” he said.

Restrictions on water use at St. John’s were lifted Aug. 31. During the outbreak, residents were given bottled water and advised not to drink other water at the facility until the process finished. They were advised to only take sponge baths and not use ice machines or water sprayers.

Minnesota Department of Health Information Officer Doug Schultz said the five cases of Legionnaires’ disease affected residents and visitors.

“There have been no additional cases in the last three weeks, so we would consider the outbreak over,” he said.

Schultz said epidemiologic, environmental and laboratory investigations indicate the St. John’s building water system “was the most likely source for the infections.”

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, and the fourth victim tested positive for Legionella July 30. The fifth person tested positive in early August.

St. John’s treated spigots on the south water main Aug. 8 and 9, and spigots on the north water main were tested Aug. 13 and 14.

Spates said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said St. John’s took an “aggressive” approach to treating the outbreak and advised continuing the approach during an Aug. 17 conference call.

St. John’s hired a consulting company during the process, Innovational Concepts, which has sent water samples to CDC-certified lab Minnesota Valley Testing in New Ulm.

The nursing home, assisted living and town center water have been tested during the process.

Legionnaires’ disease is a type of bacterial pneumonia that can be severe, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. 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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