Legionnaires’ Disease in Senior Living Facilities

Property & Casualty, Risk, Senior Living & Social Services

Legionnaires’ Disease (LD) is a severe form of pneumonia caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila, which is found naturally in freshwater environments. LD was coined in 1976 after a mass outbreak in delegates attending an American Legion conference in Philadelphia.

LD is a health concern when it grows and spreads in man-made building water systems and devices such as shower heads, hot tubs, decorative fountains, and cooling towers. Senior living facilities are particularly at risk where Legionella can be transmitted through resident humidifiers, air conditioner units, and CPAP machines.

Internal and external factors can lead to Legionella growth in building water systems and personal devices that are not adequately disinfected or maintained. When water contaminated with Legionella is aerosolized and breathed or aspirated into the lungs, Legionnaires’ Disease may develop.

Who is at risk?

Individuals at increased risk of getting sick with LD are those age 50 and over, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung disease or weak immune systems, people with cancer, and people with other underlying illnesses.

About 1 out of every 10 people who gets sick with non-hospital acquired Legionnaires’ Disease will die from complications. Symptoms of LD will mirror those of pneumonia and can include cough, muscle aches, fever, shortness of breath, and headache.

Insurance Considerations

Consider speaking with your insurance agent to ensure you have adequate coverage in place for first party claims that includes remediation costs, emergency response, business interruption & catastrophe management coverage. More importantly, ensure you have defense and indemnity coverage for bodily injury that includes medical monitoring, clean up and property damage for third party incidents.

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