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

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.

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