Legionnaires’ Disease

Posted In: Environmental Law & Toxic Torts

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia and an infection of the lungs that is caused by Legionnaires’ disease bacteria (LDB).   It is a serious and sometimes fatal bacterial disease that is commonly associated with water-based chemicals that originate from warm water sources. It may be associated with poorly maintained cooling towers and potable water systems.

Legionellosis is the term for the diseases produced by LDB. In addition to Legionnaires’ disease, the same bacteria also cause a flu-like disease called Pontiac fever.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease may range from coughing and low fever to pneumonia-like symptoms and even coma and death.   There is often no single telltale sign of contracting the disease, which makes diagnosis sometimes difficult.   The incubation period (the time from exposure to the onset of symptoms) can be from 2 to 10 days.

Other symptoms include:

  • Fever above 102°
  • Cough (dry or producing phlegm)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain

Where can Legionnaires’ Disease be Contracted?

Almost any warm water system or device, whether man-made or natural, that disseminates water, particularly as aerosols, sprays or mists can present favorable conditions for LDB growth and amplification.  While Legionnaires’ disease only occurs in the presence of a contaminated water source, internal plumbing systems, cooling towers, and warm, stagnant water systems can provide ideal conditions for the growth of the organism if not properly maintained.

It is important to note that while healthy people may be at risk for contracting Legionnaires’ Disease, the most susceptible victims include the elderly, smokers, and those on immunosuppressive therapy, as well as organ transplant patients, COPD sufferers, and people taking corticosteroids.   Thus hospitals and similar environments should be even more careful in monitoring their water supply.

Is it Possible to Prevent an Outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease?

Yes. OSHA estimates that there are over 25,000 cases of the illness occuring each year, including more than 4,000 fatalities.   Outbreaks are preventable, but such prevention requires meticulous cleaning and disinfection of water systems.  Thus, when someone is put on notice for conditions that may support an opportunistic environment for the bacteria, it should act extremely diligent to remedy the situation.

What are my Legal Rights if I Contracted Legionnaires’ Disease?

If you or someone you love have contracted Legionnaires’ Disease, you may be entitled to compensation.  If the place you came into contact with the bacteria ignored warning signs of the disease or was otherwise negligent in preventing the outbreak, they may be liable to you for damages. A Legionnaires’ disease lawsuit may be your best option if you contracted the illness while at a hospital, hotel or other location. Contact an attorney at Slater Slater Schulman LLP today for a free consultation by filling out the form on this page or by calling us at (212) 481-7400 (New York City office) or at (800) 251-6990 (toll-free).

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