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Legionnaires' Disease Reported at Outpatient Complex

Pennsylvania Department of Health Issues advisory to doctors concerning outbreak of potentially deadly respiratory infection.

The Integrated Health Campus at 240-250 Cetronia Road. (Patch, Mary Ellen Alu)
The Integrated Health Campus at 240-250 Cetronia Road. (Patch, Mary Ellen Alu)

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has issued an advisory about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease among some people who have recently visited the Integrated Health Campus at 240 and 250 Cetronia Road in South Whitehall Township.

Legionnaires’ Disease is a sometimes-fatal respiratory infection that can give patients flu-like symptoms, including muscle aches, headache, tiredness and dry cough followed by high fever, chills and occasionally diarrhea.

Temperatures commonly reach 102 to 105 degrees and subsequent chest radiographs often reveal pneumonia. The symptoms usually begin 2 to 14 days after being exposed to the bacteria.

The disease is often misdiagnosed because its symptoms mimic the flu, which is why the Department of Health is asking doctors to have a “heightened clinical suspicion” for Legionnaires’ among patients who visited the Cetronia Road facility within two weeks of contracting their respiratory illness.

The Health Department released the following list of healthcare providers and other businesses in the complex:

250 Cetronia Road
Steel Fitness Premier
OAA Orthopaedic Specialists Imaging Center
Advanced Breast Care Imaging, LLC
Advanced Breast Care Imaging Treatment & Wellness Center
Center for Allergy and Asthma Care
Mocha Mikes
Cetronia Primary Care
OAA Orthopaedic Specialists Physical Therapy and ORL Associates
Surgery Center of Allentown
Aesthetic Surgery Associates
Breast Care Specialists, PC
OAA Orthopaedic Specialists--Administrative Office
St. Luke's Center for Advanced Gynecological Care
Meade Educational Center

240 Cetronia Road
NORTH
St. Luke's Allentown Cancer Center
Advanced Radiation Oncology Associates
St. Luke's Hospital Radiation Oncology
St. Luke's Allentown Infusion Center
St. Luke's Hospital Outpatient Laboratory
St. Luke's Center for Urology
Cardiothoracic Surgical Associates
General Surgical Care, P.C.
St. Luke's Bariatric and General Surgery
St. Luke's Neurological Associates
St. Luke's Neurodiagnostics
St. Luke's Sleep Disorder Center

SOUTH
Allen Valley Dental
St. Luke's Hematology--Oncology Specialists
St. Luke's Surgical Oncology

Legionnaires’ does not respond to common outpatient antibiotics, though there are certain medicines that are effective, the Health Department says.

If an outbreak occurs, an investigation to find the environmental source will take place, according to a Legionnaires’ Disease fact sheet prepared by the Health Department.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the disease is commonly spread through drinking water systems, whirlpool spas and air conditioning cooling towers. Proper maintenance and disinfection of these systems is one way to prevent disease spread, according to the Health Department.

People with underlying illnesses or lowered immune systems are at higher risk, which is why outbreaks often occur in health care settings, the Health Department said.

According to the CDC, less than 5 percent of all people exposed to the Legionella bacteria responsible for the disease will contract Legionnaires’.

More commonly, they will contract Pontiac fever, another flu-like illness that causes fever, chills and malaise without pneumonia, is never fatal, and will pass within a week even without treatment, according to the CDC.

Legionnaires’ Disease gets its name from the first known outbreak of the sickness, which occurred at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in 1976. Subsequently, the bacterium causing the illness was laboratory identified and named Legionella pneumophila.

Tanya Tanzosh Black November 01, 2013 at 09:48 AM
My brother-in-law has been in the hospital since last Friday with this diagnosis. Like the article says, he was diagnosed with the flu and got worse during the following 3 days when his wife took him back to the MD. He was admitted to the hospital last Friday and we got the diagnosis of Legionnaires’ Disease last evening. We live in North Carolina and ironically I am from Nazareth where all of my family lives. This has been a VERY scary time for our family but am glad for the hard work of the Duke MDs who have been helping him.
Cindy Badman Miller November 04, 2013 at 07:15 AM
My Mom was hospitalized with severe symptoms and gravely ill...the final diagnosis was Legionnaires. Scary. And the residual effects are still apparent. Her diagnosis was 3 months ago. This is very worrisome!
Kaos8 November 04, 2013 at 08:47 AM
I just read on the Mayo Clinic Website some of the facts on Legionnaires- which the CDC did not mention or at least are not mentioned in this article. The bacterium Legionella pneumophila is responsible for most cases of Legionnaires' disease. Outdoors, Legionella bacteria survive in soil and water, but rarely cause infections. Indoors, though, Legionella bacteria can multiply in all kinds of water systems — hot tubs, air conditioners and mist sprayers in grocery store produce departments. Although it's possible to contract Legionnaires' disease from home plumbing systems, most outbreaks have occurred in large buildings, perhaps because complex systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily. How the infection spreads Most people become infected when they inhale microscopic water droplets containing legionella bacteria. This might be the spray from a shower, faucet or whirlpool, or water dispersed through the ventilation system in a large building. Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, including: Hot tubs and whirlpools on cruise ships Cooling towers in air conditioning systems Decorative fountains Swimming pools Physical therapy equipment Water systems in hotels, hospitals and nursing homes Scientists aren't certain how much exposure to the bacteria is needed to cause disease, but some people have developed infections after inhaling contaminated droplets for just a few minutes. And unlike many bacteria, which spread within a small radius, legionella bacteria may be capable of traveling as far as four miles through the air. ***So this could be potentially worse than what they are reporting- so, even if you did not go in the area- this could infect people up to a 4 mile radius! Granted the Mayo Clinic also reports you can get it at the Grocery store from the sprayers over the produce or you can get it in the soil or if you are near a construction site where soil is being moved..It is mostly spread by aerosolized water droplets.
Kaos8 November 04, 2013 at 08:54 AM
This also scarily reminds me of the MRSA situations in the Lehigh Valley over the last 5-6yrs..My Brother-In-Law almost died from MRSA and at least this is not as easily transmitted as MRSA- so I guess we should be lucky... With as many buildings/population in this area possibly tainted with Legionnaires, we should consider ourselves lucky- it is not a human contact transmitted bacteria.

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