Health Dept. Narrows Legionella Outbreak to Nursing Home in Florence

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(Photo by Carter Watkins, WHNT News 19)

(Photo by Carter Watkins, WHNT News 19)

FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) – The Alabama Department of Public Health continues to investigate an outbreak of Legionella pneumonia in Florence.  The department says all known cases to this point have been associated with Glenwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

To date, 13 patients are confirmed to have Legionella pneumonia, and one of those patients died.  Ten other patients are suspected to have had it, but tests are still pending, according to Dr. Karen Landers, Assistant State Health Officer for the ADPH.

No new patients have been identified since Oct. 10.

“The health department continues to work very closely with the physicians and hospitals to find any new patients,” said Dr. Landers.

Glenwood, which is located on Ana Drive, remains open.   Facility managers released a statement Friday, saying they have taken a proactive approach as they work with health officials to stop the outbreak.

“Glenwood Healthcare immediately proceeded to notify and cooperate with state and
local health departments and area hospitals with respect to identifying and treating any instances of Legionellosis,” the statement read.

“Consistent with its excellent history as a CMS Five Star rated skilled nursing facility, Glenwood Healthcare continued and expanded, under the guidance of the Alabama Department of Public Health and the U.S. Center for Disease Control, its safety and quality assurance protocols for testing and safeguarding residents and employees from the threat of Legionellosis infection,” the statement continued.

“Since October 11, 2013, there have been no new respiratory infections identified at the
Glenwood facility, evidencing the positive results of Glenwood’s proactive response to this matter. Glenwood Healthcare is not aware of any conclusive results from the environmental testing performed in our community by Alabama Department of Public Health and the U.S. Center for Disease Control that identify the source of Legionella bacteria,” the facility added.

Dr. Landers said in the United States, cooling towers have been a frequent source of Legionella outbreaks. However, there no confirmed cultures from cooling towers in the vicinity of Glenwood.  Out of caution, management at Regency Square Mall voluntarily turned theirs off.

“We appreciate their cooperation during this public health outbreak,” said Dr. Landers.

Glenwood Healthcare, Inc. echoed the source has been difficult to find.

“Since Legionellosis is caused by a bacteria that is common in Alabama and grows in water, the source of it can be difficult to locate in a community such as Florence,” said Dr. Dwight M. Spearman, II, President of Glenwood Healthcare, Inc. “We may never know how it made its way to patients in our facility or any other places in the area that have been impacted.”

Legionella pneumonia is not transmitted from person to person.  People get it when they breathe in a mist or vapor containing the bacteria.  Legionella pneumonia is caused by a germ that occurs naturally in the environment.  The germ grows best in warm water.  Some places where the germ can be found include hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems and decorative fountains.


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