PARMA, Ohio – A porter with a stack of yellow flyers stopped Maria Vegel when she entered Mass on July 22. "Take this paper, it's very important," the placard said.
Thus, Vegel, 79, said that six of her parishioners in the Roman Catholic Church of St. Columbkille in Parma were afflicted with Legionnaire's disease, a severe form of pneumonia that can be fatal.
Five more parishioners were confirmed with the disease in July 23, bringing the total number for the outbreak cluster to 11.
The airman explained that because of the cases the air conditioning of the sanctuary had been switched off. Legionnaire's disease spreads through airborne water droplets.
Everyone in the St. Columbkille Cluster was over 70 years old and fell ill between early June and mid-July, including a 93-year-old Parma woman who died on July 5 at the Cuyahoga County Health Department investigating the outbreak [1
Vegel, who lives in Seven Hills, took extra copies of the leaflet for her daughter and older neighbor. She forgot the weekday Mass in St. Columbkille for a few days, but returned Wednesday.
"Yeah, I was a bit worried," she said, then shrugged. "I'm going to die anyway, that's why I'm here [worshipping]."
The Health Inspector of Cuyahoga County is not sure if the church building is the source of the eruption. An inspection on Monday, July 23, focused on the sanctuary's air conditioning system and a tank in the basement, which recirculates water for the cooling system. Results are expected in about a week.
"You will find it sooner or later," said parishioner Jerry Kubek, 73, from Parma. He has continued to attend services in St. Columbkille and is confident in the way the church handles the situation.
"We will do what we have to do," said Kubek.
Like legionnaires? spreads and sickens
The bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease, called Legionella, are everywhere in the water. It is in the rivers and lakes, and in the pipes carrying water to the showers, drinking fountains and valleys.
Most people do not get sick from exposure to the bacteria because their immune system eliminates the threat. However, when legionella multiply in building water systems and infect the sick or the elderly, it can lead to serious illness and death.
Legionella breed in warm, stagnant water in pipes where chlorine levels are low, said Ohio Department of Health (ODH) spokesman JC Benton.
Legionnaire's disease spreads when water droplets containing bacteria are inhaled into the lungs. It does not spread from person to person.
The disease targets people over the age of 50 and current or former smokers, chronic lung disease patients, cancer, weakened immune systems, or diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure. Jennifer Hanrahan, Medical Director of Infection Prevention, MetroHealth Medical Center
Severe symptoms such as fever, cough, muscle aches and chills require the attention of a doctor, Hanrahan said.
An aging population, increased use of immunosuppressive drugs, increased screening for the disease, and a higher prevalence of chronic disease have promoted the onset of the disease globally and locally, ODH said. In 2017 there were 601 cases in the state, up from 510 in 2016.
Other reasons include the increased number of cases, such as the dependency on air conditioners, complex indoor installations in large buildings and water-saving faucets
Outbreaks like those in St Columbkille are usually associated with a building or structure with water and a fan as part of a centralized cooling system, such as hotels and resorts, long-term care facilities and hospitals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tuberous bacteria are commonly found in showers, whirlpools and fountains, as well as in cooling towers
Household and car air conditioners that use no water to cool the air are not at risk for Legionella. Growth.
Legionnaires Traced to Unknown Bacteria
Legionnaire's disease was unknown in 1976, when a mysterious pneumonia made 182 people ill, most of whom died at an American Legion Convention Philadelphia had participated; 29 of the victims died.
It took several months for two scientists at the CDC to announce that the disease was caused by a newly discovered bacterium now called Legionella.
The bacteria blossomed in the cooling tower of the hotel's air-conditioning system, which spread droplets of bacteria throughout the building.
The researchers then linked Legionella to previous medical mysteries, including epidemics and outbreaks in Pontiac, Michigan, in 1969 and Philadelphia in 1974.
Most cases of legionnaires involve a single person and the source is never found, said Dr. Amy Edwards, Associate Medical Director of Pediatric Infection Control at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital. If three to four cases are reported in the same city, as happened in Parma, epidemiologists become active to locate the source.
Epidemiologists interview patients and their doctors about where the sick people lived, worked and shopped for two weeks, then try to find common links. If a person is too ill to talk to investigators, family members are asked to provide information.
"It's old-fashioned detective work," Edwards said.