Legionnaires’ confirmed in 7 patients treated at McLaren Macomb

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Officials are investigating seven cases of Legionnaires’ disease in patients treated at a Macomb County hospital.

Each patient had spent time at McLaren Macomb in Mount Clemens since late July, representatives said in a statement Wednesday.

"Though the investigation is ongoing and a definite source has not been identified, we are responding with an abundance of caution and partnering with the Macomb County Health Department to identify targeted areas in the hospital to implement additional precautions to our water management efforts (installing filters, removing aerators, providing bottled water options)," the release read.

Legionnaires' disease is caused by bacterium called Legionella, found most often in fresh water.

Officials plan to increase water testing at the facility, although previous testing has not indicated any signs of growing Legionella, the bacteria that causes the illness.

The announcement comes as the county has reported an increase in Legionnaires’ diagnoses, with 45 cases so far this year and 96 cases in the last 12 months, McLaren Macomb said Wednesday.

Last week, representatives confirmed a patient treated at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak had been diagnosed with the infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionnaires’ is a serious strain of pneumonia caused by people breathing in mist or accidentally swallowing water containing the bacteria.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, muscle aches, headache and fever. Symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after exposure.

Legionnaires' can thrive in buildings with large water systems.

About 20 outbreaks are reported each year, including recent ones at an Atlanta hotel and a hospital near Chicago. An outbreak killed 12 people and sickened dozens of others in Genesee County in 2014-15.

In a recent report, experts said annual cases of Legionnaires' jumped more than five-fold from 2000 to 2017, and that as many as 70,000 Americans get the disease every year.

People at higher risk for infection include those age 50 or older, have a current or past smoking history, or have an underlying illness or condition such as chronic lung disease.

Information on Legionnaires' can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/legionella/