Legionnaires’ disease detected at Providence facility


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Three cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been confirmed at a Providence health care facility, the Rhode Island Department of Health said Thursday.

According to spokesman Joseph Wendelken, three people living at the Summit Commons Rehabilitation and Health Care Center. have contracted the disease, which is a severe form of pneumonia.

Legionella bacteria was detected in the facility’s water supply, which Wendelken said is now being treated. He also said the facility has placed filters on faucets and shower heads to keep the bacteria from spreading.

He said while the bacteria is in the water, people don’t get Legionnaires’ disease by drinking water. Instead, it’s contracted by breathing in droplets of water – like in the shower, for instance.

Health officials met with families and residents of Summit Commons Thursday afternoon to discuss the issue.

Wendelken said there is an increased risk of infection for the elderly and those with weakened immune systems or underlying lung conditions.

“Unfortunately, when we see a lot of cases of Legionnaires’ disease, it tends to be in assisted living facilities and nursing homes and that’s really for two reasons. One is that you just really have a very vulnerable population. So, people who are older than 50 years old, people that have underlying lung conditions, underlying medical conditions, people who have a history of smoking are much more susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease,” Wendelken said.

He said the second factor is nursing homes have restrictions on hot water temperature in order to avoid burns, so accumulating bacteria might not get killed off like it would if water temperature were set higher.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to those of pneumonia:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

The CDC says symptoms usually begin two to 10 days after being exposed to the disease. According to the CDC, one out of every 10 people who become sick with Legionnaires’ disease will die due to complications.

Wendelken told Eyewitness News there were 50 cases of the disease in the state last year.

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