Legionnaires Probe Continues

ST. MARYS — Lab results on samples taken from AAP in St. Marys showed no traces of Legionnaires disease in potable water sources but detectable levels of the bacteria were found in other areas of the facility.

In July, two individuals who work at AAP became ill with Legionnaire's disease. One person, Brian Kyburz, 37, died from the illness and another employee remains hospitalized. That patient's name has not been released.

As part of an investigation into the outbreak, AAP officials started to test water samples taken throughout the facility. In addition to the testing, officials at AAP flushed, super heated and hyperchlorinated the water sources within the plant to prevent the legionella bacteria from posing risks to workers.

The samples, which were taken before the super heating and hyperchlorination, showed no levels of the bacteria in water sources used in showers and sinks at the facility and the majority of other areas in the plant. However, samples from other areas did show detectable levels of the bacteria. In a news release, Auglaize County Health Commissioner Charlotte Parsons said there are no governmental guidelines regarding permissible levels of legionella bacteria in water systems. Parsons was unavailable for additional comment.

Preliminary reports of follow-up testing appeared to indicate that the precautionary measures that were taken have been successful in reducing or eliminating any remaining bacteria. There have been no additional confirmed cases of Legionnaires disease reported to public health authorities. Local and state public health will continue to work with AAP as company officials develop future water safety procedures.

Legionella bacteria can survive outdoors in soil and water but rarely causes infections.  Indoors, Legionella bacteria can multiply in fresh water systems, such as hot tubs, hot water tanks and cooling towers. Most people become infected when they breathe in contaminated microscopic water droplets in the air. Legionnaires disease cannot be spread from person to person.

The vast majority of people exposed to legionella bacteria do not become sick. In some people, the germ causes a mild flu-like illness called Pontiac fever that usually does not require treatment. Legionnaires disease most often effects people 50 years of age or older, people who smoke or have a chronic lung disease such as emphysema, and those whose immune systems are weakened by diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease or cancer. Early symptoms of illness develop two to 10 days after exposure to a source and include headache, chills, high fever, and muscle pain. Later signs and symptoms may include chest pain, cough, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal upset and/or confusion or other mental changes.

Pneumonia that is caused by legionella bacteria cannot be distinguished from other types of pneumonia based only on examination of the patient. The proper tests must be ordered for confirmation. The disease can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics, especially when treatment begins early in the course of the disease.

As of July 20, the state of Ohio has handled 233 individual cases of Legionnaires disease and five outbreaks. Last year, it handled 290 individual cases and two outbreaks, and in 2011, it handled 390 individual cases and four outbreaks.