Source: RLS Media
Two cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been recently reported in from the section of Hamilton Township, Mercer County, served by Trenton Water Works (TWW).
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia that people can get after breathing in aerosolized water (small water droplets in the air) containing Legionella bacteria.
It is rare for a healthy person exposed to Legionella to become sick with Legionnaires’ disease. However, people who are 50 years or older, especially those who smoke or those with certain medical conditions, including weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease, or other chronic health conditions, are at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease.
It is not known whether individuals with Legionella detected in their home are more likely to develop Legionnaires’ disease, but there is no safe amount of Legionella, and individuals at increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease are especially urged to follow best practices for home plumbing system maintenance and safe uses of water.
Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches, which are similar to symptoms caused by other respiratory infections, including COVID-19.
The Hamilton Township Division of Health continues to work closely with the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) to investigate these cases.
Water samples collected from more than half of the homes served by TWW identified the presence of Legionella, including in samples of the cold water entering homes.
It is possible for Legionella to enter buildings and homes when receiving treated drinking water. However, health officials are concerned about the number of homes with Legionella in areas serviced by TWW. Investigators are also assessing if the other municipalities served by TWW are impacted.
NJDOH recommends that all homeowners and building owners follow best practices to maintain their household and building water systems.
However, health officials are especially urging residents and business owners in Hamilton Township served by TWW to take actions to reduce the risk of Legionella growth in their household and building plumbing.
The Hamilton Township Division of Health and NJDOH want to remind healthcare providers to maintain a high index of suspicion for Legionnaires’ disease when evaluating patients for community-acquired and healthcare-associated pneumonia, especially among residents of Hamilton Township.
This is important to ensure patients receive appropriate and timely treatment. Appropriate testing for Legionnaires’ disease includes using a urinary antigen test and a collection of a lower respiratory specimen.
Statewide, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) receives approximately 250–350 reports of Legionnaires’ disease annually.
Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal but is treatable with antibiotics. It is important that anyone who thinks they have symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease contact their health care provider and seek medical evaluation.