7 cases of Legionnaires' reported at McLaren Macomb Hospital within last month

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – The Macomb County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are investigating several cases of Legionnaires' disease.

They believe the outbreak could have originated at McLaren Macomb Hospital in Mount Clemens. 

Patients family members who have visited the facility recently are concerned. 

Since July, there have been a total of seven cases of possible health care-associated Legionnaires' disease identified at McLaren Macomb but six of the cases were reported within the last month.

Since the beginning of 2019, there have been more than 400 cases in Michigan and 27 deaths. In Wayne County, there have been 62 cases; in Macomb County, there have been 57 and Oakland County has seen 42 cases.

Legionnaires' disease takes between two and 10 days to develop from the time of exposure. The symptoms are similar to those of pneumonia -- fever, cough, body aches and shortness of breath -- and a chest X-ray will show a pneumonia.

If the causative bacteria Legionella pneumophila is suspected, there is specific testing that a doctor will do. If Legionnaires' is suspected or confirmed, antibiotics can be used to treat the pneumonia.

The Legionella bacteria exists naturally in the environment and gets into our lungs through aerosolized water that it's growing in. Potential sources include cooling towers, whirlpools, decorative fountains and other water systems. 

There is typically an increase in cases seen in the late summer and early fall because the temperatures encourage bacterial growth. 

The bacteria is not generally spread from person to person. People over 50, smokers and those with existing lung disease or weakened immune systems are at greatest risk.

A source of the potential outbreak hasn't been identified, according to officials. The hospital is cooperating with the investigation, and officials are working with the hospital to determine if other patients may have been infected.

Because hospitals and long-term care facilities have older and sicker people in general, potential associated outbreaks need to be investigated and resolved as quickly as possible.

What is Legionnaires' disease?

Legionnaires' disease is an infection caused by Legionella bacteria. 

Officials said it's a severe infection that includes symptoms of fever and cough consistent with pneumonia. The bacteria are naturally occurring in fresh water, and the organisms can multiply in man-made water systems.

After the bacteria grows, water containing it can spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in. People who are 50 or older are at higher risk for the disease, and so are those with a history of smoking, underlying illness or chronic lung disease. Other people who are at high risk are those who have kidney or liver failure, diabetes, systemic malignancies or immune system disorders.

Patients with pneumonia should be tested for LD if they have any of the following histories:

  • Have failed outpatient antibiotic treatment for community-acquired pneumonia
  • Are immunocompromised
  • Are admitted to the intensive care unit
  • Traveled within 10 days prior to symptom onset
  • Were recently hospitalized
  • Developed pneumonia 48 hours or more after hospital admission

If you have concerns about your own health contact your primary care provider. Click here to read more about LD from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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