The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reports being informed of two laboratory-confirmed Legionnaires’ disease cases with onsets in October 2022 and December 2022 connected with the Woodland Garden Apartments in Duluth.
Two cases of Legionella with a common apartment building is concerning as outbreaks in this setting are relatively rare. The disease carries high morbidity or mortality and this setting is a seniors-only apartment building, which increases the concern as advanced age is a major risk factor for Legionnaires’ disease.
Given that Legionnaires’ disease can mimic so many other respiratory illnesses, MDH encourages testing in patients that may be connected to this location.
Legionella bacteria are found naturally in freshwater environments, such as lakes and streams. Legionella can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made building water systems such as cooling towers used in air conditioning systems, hot tubs, fountains, and large plumbing systems. Legionnaires’ disease, which is a type of pneumonia, may result when individuals breathe in droplets of water that contain the bacteria. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches.
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. Those at increased risk of getting sick are people age 50 years and older; current or former smokers; people with a chronic lung disease, weak immune systems, or cancer; and people with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure.
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