Reynoldsburg News

Legionnaires' disease

Reynoldsburg outbreak now largest in Ohio's history

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at Reynoldsburg's Wesley Ridge Retirement Community has claimed another victim, bringing the death count to six residents.

As of Tuesday, Aug. 6, Mitzi Kline, from Franklin County Public Health, said there are 39 confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease and six deaths due to contamination of the water system at Wesley Ridge.

"This is the largest Legionella outbreak in Ohio history," Kline said.

She said the six who died were all residents at Wesley Ridge. Eight visitors and one Wesley Ridge employee also contracted the disease.

Kline said 32 people were ill enough to be hospitalized and those who contracted the disease ranged in age from 63 to 99.

"The additional death reported today is not a new case," said Margaret Carmany, CEO of Methodist ElderCare, which operates Wesley Ridge.

"The verification and reporting process through the board of health takes time and the case count is affected by the incubation period as well," Carmany said.

"In addition, it is important to note that the population of Wesley Ridge is medically fragile and sadly, these six residents died with Legionella but not necessarily because of it.

"We are terribly saddened by this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and friends," she added.

The Centers for Disease Control have conducted tests of the retirement center's water system since July 9, when the outbreak began.

Kline said CDC's final test results from last week indicated that Legionella bacteria were discovered in the both the drinking water system and the cooling tower at Wesley Ridge.

She said Wesley Ridge worked with the CDC and hired a private contractor to superheat and hyperchlorinate the entire water system by July 10.

When more CDC tests found bacteria in the cooling tower on July 19, along with trace amounts of Legionella bacteria in the Parkside building water system, Wesley Ridge shut down the cooling tower and superheated the water system once more.

Kline said Franklin County Public Health officials determined that water and shower restrictions could be lifted in all buildings except Parkside.

Carmany said Monday, Aug. 5, that the majority of people who were hospitalized have been treated and returned home.

She said showering restrictions will be lifted at Parkside once CDC-approved showerheads are installed and negative follow up tests are received.

"Wesley Ridge is working with its contractor to implement a long-term testing plan based on recommendations from the CDC, FCPH and the Ohio Department of Health to assure there is no recurrence of Legionella," she said. "The cooling tower that tested positive for the Legionella bacteria will remain closed until a long-term prevention plan is in place."

Carmany said Wesley Ridge has followed all remediation action steps recommended by the CDC.

"In fact, we have gone beyond their recommendations in terms of remediation," she said. "The well-being of our residents has always been our first priority."

Wesley Ridge transported residents to a nearby hotel for showers soon after the outbreak began, then installed CDC-approved showerheads in the common shower areas and furnished bottled drinking water to all residents.

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

She said Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment and grow best in warm water, like the kind found in large plumbing systems, hot tubs, cooling towers and the air-conditioning systems of large buildings.