According to the New York City Health Department, 12 people died and over 100 people were hospitalized in the South Bronx after contracting Legionnaires’ disease this summer. The first lawsuit for personal injuries related to the South Bronx exposure was filed recently. Additionally, within the past month, 8 people at a Quincy, Illinois veterans’ home have died of Legionnaire’s disease, and 6 inmates at San Quentin Prison in California have confirmed cases of the disease.
New York corrections officers need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease and know how it is spread in order to protect themselves from infection.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a bacterium, Legionella, that is found naturally in water. A person contracts Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling water mist or vapor that has the Legionella bacteria in it. The disease is not spread from person to person; you cannot get Legionnaires’ disease by exposure to or contact with another person.
The bacteria flourishes in warm water, and is most commonly found in hot tubs, hot water tanks, water cooling tanks, decorative fountains, and large, industrial plumbing systems.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are very similar to a bad cold or pneumonia, making it hard to recognize and diagnose. Common symptoms of the disease can include:
- Shortness of breath;
- Headache; and
- Muscle aches.
Typically, people develop these symptoms 2 to 10 days after exposure.
A milder version of the disease is called Pontiac Fever. In a case of Pontiac Fever, the person does not develop pneumonia, and symptoms go away on their own without the need for antibiotic treatment.
Most healthy adults who come into contact with the bacteria do not develop symptoms and do not get Legionnaires’ disease. Legionnaires’ disease typically affects the very young, the very old, and people with pre-existing, underlying health conditions.
Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics, and most healthy people fully recover from the disease with antibiotic treatment.
What to Do if You are Exposed to Legionnaires’ at Work
Because of the industrial nature of a prison’s plumbing system, corrections officers could be exposed to Legionnaires’, as happened at San Quentin.
If you are a corrections officer and believe you were exposed to Legionnaires’ at work, you may be entitled to compensation if you contracted the disease. First and foremost, you should get proper medical attention. You can continue to work, as you cannot spread the disease to other people.
Second, you should report the exposure to your employer and to your local health department. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Legionnaires’ disease to be a “reportable” disease and any outbreak needs to be reported.
Then, Call Us
If you have contracted Legionnaires’ at work, you should call the Battiloro Law Group immediately after obtaining appropriate medical care. The Battiloro Law Group specifically represents corrections officers in their claims for benefits. If you contracted Legionnaires’ disease while working at a prison, you may be entitled to compensation. The Battiloro Law Group will fight for your full benefits to which you are rightly entitled.