Legionnaires’ disease cluster in Grand Rapids under investigation

Minnesota Department of Health investigating
Minnesota Department of Health investigating(MGN)
Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 2:44 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2023 at 4:13 PM CDT
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GRAND RAPIDS, MN. (Northern News Now) - The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is investigating a cluster of five confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Grand Rapids.

Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial pneumonia that people can get after breathing in aerosolized water containing Legionella bacteria.

You cannot get Legionnaires’ disease by drinking water that has Legionella and it is not spread from person to person.

The five infected had lived or spent time in Grand Rapids during the two weeks before their illness began.

The cluster was all adults and they became ill between the end of April and mid-July.

All five were hospitalized.

Currently, no deaths have occurred.

MDH officials state they are working to identify possible sources of the bacteria and make recommendations for preventing any additional illnesses.

Trisha Robinson, Epidemiologist Supervisor in the Waterborne Diseases Unit at the Minnesota Department of Health told Northern News Now, “Legionnaires’ disease can be severe, so prompt diagnosis and immediate treatment is really important. People who are not experiencing symptoms we don’t recommend that they get tested.”

A common source has not been identified and the investigation is ongoing to identify the source.

The only commonality thus far is the living in or visiting Grand Rapids in the 2 weeks prior to infection.

It is stated that investigations into Legionnaires’ disease clusters can be complex.

Past outbreaks have been linked to various environmental water sources such as cooling towers, building plumbing systems, hot tubs, and decorative fountains.

The key to preventing Legionnaires’ disease is to reduce the risk of Legionella growth and spread in these water systems.

Officials say legionnaires’ disease can be severe, so prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment is important.

Common symptoms include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue. Other symptoms may include weakness, loss of appetite, confusion, diarrhea, and nausea.

Most people exposed to Legionella bacteria do not develop Legionnaires’ disease.

People at increased risk of infection and severe illness include those ages 50 years and older and current or former smokers. Other risk factors include chronic health conditions such as lung, kidney, or liver disease; diabetes; cancer; and conditions and medications that affect the immune system.

“People who have symptoms or are concerned about their health should contact their health care provider,” said Jessica Hancock-Allen, director of the MDH Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division.

MDH leaders have asked healthcare providers to watch for any additional patients with symptoms that might indicate Legionnaires’ disease.

However, they are not recommending testing for people who may have been exposed but do not have symptoms.

In 2022, 109 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in Minnesota. Most cases are sporadic and not associated with any cluster or outbreak.

The Minnesota Department of Health is leading the investigation with the assistance of Itasca County.

More information can be found here.

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