Two people died and two more were ill from a cluster of Legionnaires’ disease cases in Hamilton Township, Mercer County, officials announced on Friday.
The four residents fell ill between August 18 and 24, but no other information about them was released due to HIPPA, according to a municipality statement.
“While the risk to our residents remains low, Legionnaires̵
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a bacterium called Legionella. It can be contracted by breathing in small water droplets containing the Legionella bacterium, which can come from cooling towers (air conditioning units for large buildings), cooling vapors, decorative fountains and plumbing. Legionnaires’ disease cannot be contracted with drinking water or through home air conditioners, according to the Department of Health.
Those at greatest risk of getting the disease are people over the age of 50, smokers, or people with certain medical conditions, including a weakened immune system, chronic lung disease, or “other chronic health conditions”.
The New Jersey Department of Health and the Hamilton Division of Health were still trying to find the origin of the bacteria that infected Hamilton’s residents and collected environmental samples from “selected sites,” the statement said.
An independent laboratory was also hired to conduct water sampling at locations in the Mercerville city section, and officials said they were working to identify any other potential sites.
“NJDOH and Hamilton Township Division of Health are working closely to identify potential sources of exposure to Legionella,” said Edward M. Lifshitz, MD, FACP, Medical Director, Communicable Disease Service, New Jersey Department of Health. “As this is an ongoing investigation, healthcare professionals are advised to test patients with community-acquired and health-care-acquired pneumonia for Legionnaires’ disease, especially among Hamilton Township residents. This is important to ensure that patients receive appropriate and timely treatment. “
“After learning of the positive cases and given Hamilton’s history with Legionnaires’ disease, our health department took swift action to investigate these cases and look for not only a common link, but also any possible continuing exposure to the our residents, ”added Mayor Jeff Martin. “I want to thank NJDOH and NJDEP for working with our staff to coordinate efforts to ensure that our residents stay healthy.” “The symptoms of legionellosis and COVID-19 can be very similar, which makes it even more important that anyone suffering from these symptoms contact their doctor immediately.”
Last year, New Jersey health officials announced that 22 people had been infected with Legionnaires’ disease and five “elderly”, who had other health problems, had died from the disease.
The 22 cases between 8 March and 13 May 2019 all involved people living in or visiting Union County.
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