Legionnaires’ Outbreak in North Portland Apartment Complex

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Feb 04, 2021 in Personal Injury

picture of gloved hand holding lab tubeThe Multnomah County Health Department reported an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease in an Oregon apartment complex in early January. Health department officials first became aware of a potential issue after several people in the same complex were hospitalized with pneumonia. After determining the outbreak was likely at Rosemont Court in North Portland, health department officials recommended relocating over 100 of its residents.

The health department is working with Northwest Housing Alternatives – the organization that owns Rosemont Court – to resolve the issue. In addition to relocating affected residents, the health department will work alongside Northwest Housing Alternatives to ensure the proper cleaning and removal of the bacteria from Rosemont Court’s plumbing system.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious form of pneumonia. However, it is not contracted or spread through any form of person-to-person contact. Rather, people get this disease by inhaling Legionella bacteria in the air from a contaminated source. People may also become ill if they accidentally aspirate contaminated water into the lungs while drinking it, but this is rare.

It is common to find Legionella bacteria in natural freshwater sources. However, health officials warn it causes serious health issues once it contaminates and grows in human-made water systems, such as:

  • Undrained hot tubs
  • Cooling water towers used in industrial (not home or car) air conditioning systems
  • Sink faucets
  • Showerheads
  • Hot water tanks
  • Decorative water fountains
  • Plumbing systems of large building complexes

Multiple People Hospitalized

At the start of the outbreak, four people had to be hospitalized after becoming ill with pneumonia. One of these initial four people diagnosed with the disease died. Several others have since become ill and, based on their symptoms, are also presumed to have contracted Legionnaires’ disease. The Multnomah County Health Department has issued an advisory to residents and nearby neighbors to watch for any symptoms of the disease.

What Are the Symptoms?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should contact their doctor or the Multnomah County Health Department if:

  • They were likely exposed to the Legionella bacteria – such as through a known contaminated source AND
  • They experience known symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, chills and a cough

Those considered at a higher risk for the illness include people who:

  • Are 50 years or older
  • Have an existing or chronic lung disease (such as emphysema)
  • Are current, habitual or former smokers
  • Have a weakened immune system – or those who take medication that causes an immune system to weaken – such as those receiving chemotherapy
  • Cancer patients
  • People with other, underlying illnesses or medical conditions – such as diabetes or liver failure

Multnomah County Health Department Response

The health department has offered temporary housing for residents at local motels. Although only 20 residents initially chose to leave the building, more were expected to evacuate soon after.

Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Health Officer said, “This is a unique and concerning situation and we are working with our partners as quickly as we can to determine if other properties or water sources are affected.”

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