1 dead, 4 hospitalized after Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at senior home in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — One person died and four others have been hospitalized following a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at an apartment complex for seniors in North Portland.

Multnomah County Health Department confirmed the death and that four residents at Rosemont Court have been hospitalized, KPTV reported.

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Health officials on Monday notified more than 100 residents of the building of concerns with the structure’s water system after several residents contracted pneumonia, the TV station reported.

According to the building manager’s website, the housing community serves people 55 and older.

Health officials explained that Legionella bacteria is found naturally in fresh water, but it can cause health problems if it gets into a building’s water supply. And while most healthy people exposed to the bacteria avoid illness, people at increased risk – including the elderly – can develop pneumonia by breathing in very small droplets of bacteria-laden water, KGW reported.

Smokers, people with chronic illnesses and the immunosuppressed are also at risk for contracting the bacterial infections.

The county health department said it will work with building managers to treat the tainted water system.

“When COVID-19 is in the background every public health response, and we saw this with the wildfires, every public health response becomes more complex and more difficult for the people impacted,” Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Health Officer, stated.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease can mimic the flu, but cough and chest pain can indicate the condition has progressed to pneumonia.

“The good news is it isn’t passed person to person,” Vines said.