Reynoldsburg News

Fifth person succumbs

CDC tests find legionella in two sources at Wesley Ridge

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Another resident of the Wesley Ridge Retirement Community in Reynoldsburg has died due to Legionnaires' disease, bringing the total number of deaths to five.

The outbreak was discovered July 9 at Wesley Ridge. A total of 35 people, ranging in age from 63-99, have been affected by the disease.

Mitzi Kline of Franklin County Public Health said 31 of the 35 affected were hospitalized.

She said final test results from the Centers for Disease Control indicate the legionella bacteria were found in both the potable water system and the cooling tower at Wesley Ridge.

"It appears both sources contributed to the legionella outbreak," she said.

Kline said preliminary CDC sampling results received July 19 indicated the bacteria were in the cooling tower, so Wesley Ridge followed the CDC recommendation to shut it down.

Kline said it was unlikely people could get the disease by drinking the tap water at Wesley Ridge, but bottled water is being provided as a precaution.

She said personnel at the retirement community followed all recommended action steps by restricting water use immediately July 10 and performing remediation efforts by hiring a private contractor.

"Following the superheating and hyperchlorination of the water system, trace amounts of legionella were found in the Parkside building," Kline said. "Wesley Ridge did immediate remediation by superheating the entire campus again last week, not just Parkside as recommended."

She said Franklin County Public Health has determined that water and shower restrictions in all buildings except Parkside can be lifted.

"Showering restrictions in the Parkside building will be lifted if Wesley Ridge installs CDC-approved showerheads or once negative followup test results are received," she said. "Drinking (the water) will not be permitted in Parkside until negative test results are received."

Kline said the cooling tower will remain closed until a long-term prevention plan is in place.

"Wesley Ridge will be working with their contractor to put a long-term testing plan in place, based on recommendations from Franklin County Public Health, the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health to assure legionella does not return," she said.

"This has been an extremely difficult and trying time for our residents, their families and the staff who care deeply about the individuals who live here," said Margaret Carmany, CEO of Methodist ElderCare Services, which runs Wesley Ridge.

"We are a community of family and friends and remain committed to ensuring the well-being of every individual who lives, works and visits Wesley Ridge. Therefore we will continue to take all precautions recommended by the CDC."

Carmany said residents have been transported to a nearby hotel for showering, and bottled water has been provided to all residents.

She said filtered, CDC-approved showerheads are in place in the common shower areas, so showering has been allowed on-site, but not yet in individual apartments.

"We will not lift the restrictions in place regarding showering and drinking water until the CDC recommends doing so in writing," she said. "Our residents' well-being remains our first priority."

Carmany said most of the people affected by the disease have been treated and returned to their rooms and apartments.

Kline said legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment and grow best in warm water, such as the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot-water tanks, large plumbing systems or the air-conditioning systems of large buildings.

She said the disease cannot be passed from person to person. It affects people who breathe in a mist or vapor that has been contaminated with the bacteria, such as from a whirlpool spa or hot tub.

 

July 23 story

A spokeswoman for Franklin County Public Health said July 23 the source of an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease at the Wesley Ridge retirement community in Reynoldsburg appears to be the facility's plumbing system.

Mitzi Kline, community health director at Franklin County Public Health, said Tuesday, July 23, that a total of 27 cases of Legionnaires' Disease have been confirmed so far at Wesley Ridge.

Updated figures show the number of cases is at 32 as of July 24.

She said the first confirmed case occurred July 9.

Two people have died and 20 residents have been hospitalized.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have taken more than 80 water samples from the Wesley Ridge water system and are continuing to test the system, Kline said.

"The age range of the (affected) residents is between 63 and 99," she said. "The illness most affects middle-aged and older persons, particularly people who smoke or have other lung problems. Also at increased risk are people who have compromised immune systems."

Kline said Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water, in places such as hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems or the air-conditioning systems of large buildings.

"Wesley Ridge does receive municipal water from the city of Reynoldsburg, but we have not had any other cases elsewhere, so it appears to be somewhere in the Wesley Ridge plumbing system," she said.

She said the disease cannot be passed from person to person but affects people who breathe in a mist or vapor that has been contaminated with the bacteria.

"One example might be breathing in the steam from a whirlpool spa that has not been properly cleaned and disinfected," she said.

It is unlikely that people could get the disease from drinking tap water at Wesley Ridge, but residents were provided with bottled water as a precaution, she said.

Kline said Wesley Ridge personnel have been "very proactive" in testing and cleaning water supplies by bringing in a private testing company and the CDC.

"To help prevent more cases, they are transporting people to the Holiday Inn for showers," Kline said.

Peg Carmany, CEO of Methodist Eldercare Services, said Tuesday, July 23, the restriction on showers won't be lifted at Wesley Ridge until the installation of CDC-approved showerheads is completed.

"With the installation of the showerheads, we hope to get life back to normal for the residents," she said.

She said many of the people who were hospitalized are home and doing well on antibiotic treatment.

"In general, the mood of the residents is amazingly positive," she said. "They are the greatest generation, for sure, and I love every one of them."

Kline said the onset of symptoms for the disease is two to 10 days after exposure.

"There is still a potential for new cases, but with the showering stopped and any drinking of the water on July 10 and remediation efforts completed, we are hopeful we will see the end of this outbreak very soon," she said.

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