Fourth person from Forsyth Co. rehab facility tests positive for Legionnaires’ disease


Oak Forest Health and Rehabilitation (Credit: Joe Dominguez)

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FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — The Forsyth County Health Department confirmed on Wednesday a fourth person from the Oak Forest Health and Rehabilitation facility has tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease.

On Monday, officials confirmed three cases at the rehab facility.

Officials said tests on the water are not finished. Water restrictions remain in place.

The health department said on Wednesday the facility is “doing everything to address the issue.”

Community safety for water users that live near the facility is not a concern because all those who have tested positive for the disease live at the facility, health officials said.

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.”

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.

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

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