MDH investigating five cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Grand Rapids

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The Minnesota Department of Health is looking into a cluster of five confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Grand Rapids.

Health officials say the environmental source of the illness has not yet been determined, and all of the five adults became ill between the end of April and mid-July. All of the patients were hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported with this cluster of cases.

Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist Trisha Robinson says “people get it when they breathe in aerosolized water that contains Legionella bacteria. And so this can come from different environmental sources, such as cooling towers, building plumbing systems, hot tubs, decorative fountains, things of that nature that might be aerosolized in the bacteria.” She mentioned it does not spread by bodies of water such as lakes and streams.

Health officials say you cannot get Legionnaires’ disease by drinking water that has Legionella, and it is not spread from person to person.

Common symptoms include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue. Other symptoms may include weakness, loss of appetite, confusion, diarrhea, and nausea.

MDH says most people exposed to Legionella bacteria do not develop Legionnaires’ disease. People at increased risk of infection and severe illness include those ages 50 years and older and current or former smokers. Other risk factors include chronic health conditions such as lung, kidney, or liver disease; diabetes; cancer; and conditions and medications that affect the immune system.

Robinson also notes, “the key to preventing Legionnaires disease is to reduce the risk of growth and spread in these water systems.”

Itasca County Public Health Division Manager Kelly Chandler doesn’t want to discourage people from visiting the town. we certainly still welcome people to the Grand Rapids area. We just want people to be aware of the cases and take precautions when travelling to our area.”

MDH has asked health care providers to watch for any additional patients with symptoms that might indicate Legionnaires’ disease. MDH is not recommending testing for people who may have been exposed but do not have symptoms.

In 2022, 109 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in Minnesota.