Retirement home faces Legionnaires' disease scare

Florida Department of Health warns against contaminated water

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The concern over cases of Legionnaires' disease occurring around the country has hit the Jacksonville area. An assisted living facility on the Southside is reporting it has detectable amounts of legionella bacteria in its water system and it's already made at least one person sick.

News4Jax has learned that this is the second time the virus was found in their water supply since last year. A letter was sent out last week to residents in Camellia at Deerwood on the Southside that legionella has been found in the water supply. And one resident has contracted pneumonia as a result of the bacteria.

The letter said complex management is "working with the Florida Department of Health as well as a national water treatment expert," and they "will be conducting a hyper-chlorination treatment of our water systems" to get rid of the bacteria.

Art Jensen lives in Camellia at Deerwood and hadn't heard the virus was in his complex.

"I didn't know anybody from here did. I heard something casually about it, somebody sick around here someplace," Jenson said.

READ: Letter to residents about legionella in the water

News4Jax spoke with the general manager at Camellia, and he declined an on-camera interview but said this is the second time legionella has been found in their water supply. He said they had it last April and they, "Did regular water sampling throughout the year," and as far as they knew the levels were safe again. He also added that, "Residents understand we're here to take care of them so they trust us."

News4Jax also spoke with Dr. Harold Laski about the bacteria and he said the water supply is the typical way legionella is transferred and a facility like this with elderly residents would be a place where caution is needed.

"If they have any of the symptoms of pneumonia, those that attack the lungs. If they have that they should see their doctor. Because the symptoms themselves don't tell you this is a Legionnaires' or legionella disease. It's basically just one of the pneumonias," Laski said.

The facility is really being pro-active about accommodating their residents telling them they don't need to leave their homes but they will be without water for a few hours and the letter says they're offering hotel rooms for the residents if needed.
 

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