Officials confirm 3 cases of Legionnaires’ disease at Winston-Salem nursing home

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Forsyth County officials have confirmed three cases of Legionnaires' disease at a Winston-Salem nursing home.

The confirmed cases were found at Oak Forest Health Rehabilitation off Highway 66. Officials said the cases were contracted within the last month.

Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia, a lung inflammation caused by infection. The disease is caused by a bacterium known as legionella, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Health officials say two of the victims are responding well to antibiotics and didn't show any symptoms on Monday. The third victim remains in the hospital with other health issues.

"It usually takes two to 14 days to manifest symptoms in patients," said Tim Darnell, an infectious disease physician with Novant Health. Darnell says symptoms include a cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches, chest pains and typically affect older adults and those with lung disease and low immune systems. "It can lead to death in approximately five to 10 percent of the people who become infected with it but most people who are exposed to it don’t even become ill with the infection."

The bacteria was found in the facility's water supply, officials confirmed. Residents have been told to not drink or bathe with the water.

Control measures taken by Oak Forest include the suspension of new admissions and some visit restrictions to the facility. Additional measures being taken include minimizing exposure to water from the facility by using bottled water for drinking, mouth rinsing, brushing teeth, and shaving. The facility has also performed water superheating by turning hot water tank and boilers to 160 degrees for three hours then purging the water lines for at least five minutes.

The disease is not spread from person-to-person, but rather through inhaling the bacteria.

"I got a phone call .... that the water was bad inside of Oak Forest," said Mary Thompson. Her 96-year-old grandmother is a resident at the facility. With visitors now being restricted Thompson is concerned for her grandmother and family members that have visited recently. "I have grand-kids and my family and I want to make sure we are safe also."

Although prompt treatment with antibiotics usually cures Legionnaires' disease, some people continue to experience problems after treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic.

State health officials recently confirmed two cases of the disease in Wilson, raising the total count to seven.

The Wilson Times reports the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services identified the two cases at Longleaf Neuro-Medical Treatment Center.

Officials said the second confirmed case of the disease is what is described as a "retrospective case, no longer symptomatic, discovered during routine testing after the initial discovery and diagnosis."

Officials told the Associated Press Longleaf has put internal control measures in place to protect residents, visitors and staff. They are currently not taking any new clients and some visitor restrictions are in place.


  • Charles Michael Lamb

    Personally I don’t buy the official line. Think about this concerning the hot water supply being contaminated with this germ: With a hot water system you have a closed system whereas the only water entering the hot water tanks comes directly from the public water supply line, supplied by the city/county. This hot water tank and lines are fully enclosed and sealed to only accept fresh water from that main public water line shortly after entering the building. (Normally the only things in front of the hot water branch is the water pressure regulator and the TEE for fire control and sprinklers. And all these are sealed/enclosed also, and it is cold water.)

    Now let me get this straight: The officials are claiming that by some freak accident the Legionnaire’s germs got into the hot water supply, mainly or including the hot water tanks and this spread the germs. Sorry but this does not add up at all. 1st there is no way for the Legionnaire’s germs to get into the hot water tanks. 2nd the hot water system is a continuously one directional system where by water is heated and sent throughout the building. 3rd this means there is or should be NO stagnate water that would allow the accumulation of any such Legionnaire’s germs. 4th Considering the statements given by the news, Oak Forest Officials and the Health Department; if the hot water was the source of contamination, then there should have been a larger outbreak of the illness with more people contracting Legionnaire’s Disease, but we did not witness this. 5th another consideration is the fact if the germ came in through the main water supply; why didn’t the Legionnaire’s germs show up in the cold water supply and in surround homes?

    Sorry people, I’m too skeptical a person to take other people’s word for just anything. It doesn’t add up and there are other unanswered questions that could be asked that does not support the official findings. Simply put, don’t believe anything at face value you hear from strangers, and little from friends. Or as the ole saying goes, don’t anything you hear and only half of what you see.

    Michael– Deo Vindicabamur

  • Tammie Leviner Arnold

    Oh, and Mr. Lamb…….I think the two of us think alike especially when it comes to topics like this. I personally because of past experience have little trust for any nursing homes. I’ve seen way to much in more than one place. I also know that even with government departments set up to take care of these kind of problems they are mostly a joke. Most nursing homes are on their own and know it, so take advantage of that lack of accountability. It’s also hard to get anyone who is in or family who have other family members in a home to report anything that could be of harm to those there. Either they are the monkey who sees no evil or hears no evil…..(don’t want to rock the boat especially employees) or they really could care less as long as the person in the home is out of their hair. Nursing homes are a big problem in this country and more should be done to see that they abide by state and federal regulations. It would help if the powers that be just knew who was suppose to do what and when instead of passing the buck from one office to another. The laws are there but nobody “in charge”, and I say that loosely, seems to know what person, in which office, is suppose to be on watch. Sadly that goes for just about all the departments in our state and local governments who were set up to protect the elderly. What we allow to happen to those, who have spent their life serving in all kinds of ways, who are now elderly and mostly with many health problems in this country is horrible and other countries often see us as disrespectful to the very ones who made our lives possible. I guess it is true that this country has become the “throw away” society. We make everything to be either easy or cheap so that when it has served it’s purpose all we have to do is throw it away and get a new one. We should never be so self absorbed that we would do this to people. But then again that just takes me to another thought…….if it’s inconvenient ……just have an abortion……get my drift? I’m not sure anything is sacred anymore……soon they will carry out old “Jack’s” evil ideas and put a needle in the arm of anyone who is considered “not viable” to society any longer. It’s closer than we think.

  • Charles Michael Lamb

    Mrs. Tammie, I think we’re close on many other things, especially if you had time to study the alternative side. I have a skeptical attitude and a critical mindset when studying and contemplating life around me. I’ve learned that it is true that man is basically inherently evil. (Not that man can’t do good, but rather there are ulterior motives for most of his actions.) So, as I was taught many years, I believe nothing I hear and half of what I see. (Although this is purely subjective depending upon the person and situation.) Strangers, I never blindly trust in critical situations unless I have no choice.

    I know from my own past personal experiences relating to government in Raleigh and in DC that none of these people can be trusted. I would no more trust a so called preacher in DC, if he were in congress than I would anyone else there. It is past saving, and we are at their mercy. And this is why we experience such problems as the article here bears out. Too much government control over our daily lives, and in return you/we/everyone ends up sacrificing our rights and sovereignty in the name of safety. (There is a quote from J Adams on this; Do you recall it? In part, “If ye desire…… Crouch down and lick the hand that feed you….”.

    I was at the business the day this article was posted and was invited to speak before NEWS 2. I told the lady I would not, but I told her she needed to study the event and disease before interviewing people, that I did not want to be sensationalized on TV, having what I said taken out of context, cherry picked for the audience. I then said for her to try and Google her information to become knowledgeable with what she was reporting, that Google was her friend. BTW, I also told her I did NOT look at TV News or the regional newspapers because they were too biased. Actually I don’t look at TV at all. I came here simply to compare different articles from the news centers.

    And so far as of today I am being proven correct in my skepticism. The water is still off at Oak Forest. There is also reports from there that now those people infected with Legionnaire’s Disease may have had it prior to them coming into Oak Forest. If this is so, pray tell why are they keeping the water off? And since they and the state claim they found the germs in the hot water system and they took the appropriate steps to kill those germs; then pray tell why is the water still off? See, the news people don’t have enuff commonsense to ask these critical and skeptical questions. They don’t even have enuff commonsense to think up such possibilities as they have been dumbed down by the public education system to the point they can’t think skeptically and intelligently for themselves in order to ask the right questions. And sadly they can never learn at their age how to proper ask the right questions because they have not been instilled with commonsense. You OTOH show you have more than enuff commonsense to challenge just any ole thing you are told. This makes you more independent and self-sustaining, a more freedom loving and respecting person. Sadly most people today in the USA cannot fathom this.

    I don’t specifically blame Oak Forest or anyone for the Legionnaire’s outbreak. It can happen anywhere and from my previous understanding of it, there is no perfect way to guarantee it won’t pop up somewhere else. Most likely it came from the AC, from an evaporator drip pan that got clogged giving the germ a good opportunity to grow. With the window units at the place and the limited large AC cooling units, cooling only combined large and limited rooms, it also could have come from one of these units though it would still would have been limited to certain rooms. (Be aware that I am NOT saying this is the only way Legionnaire’s is spread, but is the most common. It is rare if not downright impossible for it to be spread by the hot water tanks alone.) Again this whole situation was probably unavoidable and I don’t fault anyone for it, but I do severely fault all agencies and the business for NOT being upfront and honest about the situation. I’m sure that someone would be all too happy to have such a case litigated in court.

    Finally the worst of the whole situation is that Raleigh and DC governments do bear the main criticism and responsibility for the way such incidents are handled and even reported. I’ve been associated with government enuff to know that it is the Insurance Companies and Pharmaceutical Companies that dictate almost all health related regulations/laws in the state and country. And the Insurance Companies have their fingers into many more things than do the Pharmaceutical Companies. They have people lobbying in Raleigh in numbers and ways you the average person cannot imagine! Yet it is all kept from your eyes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the news companies were fully aware of it. (Maybe not the reporters themselves but the directors most definitely would be.) I could tell you many stories about what goes on behind closed doors.

    Michael– Deo Vindicabamur
    Classical Historian Western Civilization

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