Woman’s death linked to Legionnaires’ outbreak

Health officials say a death has now been linked to a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in northwest Alabama.

All 13 lab-confirmed cases have been tied to a Florence nursing home in the outbreak that was detected this month. Ten were residents. Three were visitors.

The count includes a woman in her 80s who died in a Tuscaloosa hospital on Thursday after coming down with Legionella pneumonia. State health officials did not name the woman, but said she had been a visitor to the Glenwood Healthcare nursing home.

Another 10 pneumonia illnesses are being investigated as possibly also Legionnaires’, and all also have been connected to the nursing home, said Dr. Karen Landers of the Alabama Department of Public Health.

State officials are trying to determine if people were infected in the nursing home. Nursing home officials have cooperated with the state investigation, Landers said.

Results from environmental testing at the facility are expected next week, she said.

Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial infection that can cause deadly pneumonia. It does not spread from person to person. Instead, people get it from inhaling contaminated mist or vapor. Tainted shower water, air conditioning systems or whirlpool spas are among the ways bacteria get in the air.

The disease got its name from an outbreak at a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion in 1976 when more than 200 people were sickened and 34 died. Health investigators ultimately fingered a bacterium they called Legionella, which apparently had spread through the convention hotel’s air conditioning system.

Legionnaires’ is considered uncommon. But experts believe it’s underreported and probably sickens thousands annually.

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