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Two Cases of Legionnaire’s Confirmed in 28 Illnesses

August 26, 1986

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) _ Two cases of Legionnaire’s disease, one of them fatal, have been confirmed in an outbreak of sickness that has left 23 people ill and five dead, health officials said Tuesday.

Officials seeking the source of the outbreak said they were concentrating on an area about 15 blocks square on Sheboygan’s northwest side, a working class district where most of the people who took ill lived.

Those affected range in age from 31 to 91, including 16 males and 12 females, said Dr. Jeffrey Davis, the state epidemiologist. The earliest onset was Aug. 10 and the most recent was Saturday, he said.

None of the patients was listed as critical Tuesday, Davis said. Some of the patients have recovered, said Sheboygan Health Director Sol Belinky.

Neither would give details on the non-fatal case of Legionnaire’s disease.

Investigators were trying to determine whether the patients ate recently in the same place, had the same relatives or belonged to the same club or other organization, said Belinky.

Air conditioners, showerheads, humidifiers and ″anything else that would send evaporated water into the air″ inside a building were being checked, he said.

″The first step is to look for a common source, and we haven’t found any yet,″ Belinky said.

″Based on interviews with patients we have not been able to come up with a common denominator, such as a shopping area, a church or any other gathering spot or even an excavation near a home,″ Davis told a news conference at St. Nicholas Hospital, where most of the patients were treated.

The confirmed victim of Legionnaire’s disease, who died Aug. 20, was identified as Irene M. Potter, the mother of state Rep. Calvin Potter.

Potter, who described his mother as ″a very active 67-year old,″ said she was hospitalized for three days being treated for pneumonia. ″She did not respond to the medication, and in three days she was dead,″ he said.

The State Division of Health said two more women and two men, who have not been identified, have died from ″atypical pneumonia″ which might be linked to the disease. Their deaths occurred from Aug. 18 to Monday.

Twelve of the 28 hospitalized were admitted in the past week, said Davis.

Nancy Kaufman, a Division of Health spokeswoman in Madison, said she could not confirm whether any of the other cases or deaths were caused by Legionnaire’s disease.

Ms. Kaufman said only that the ″clinical course of those who have been stricken″ points to Legionnaire’s.

Legionnaire’s disease is named after an outbreak of illness in 1976 at a Philadelphia hotel during an American Legion convention. It affected about 200 people and eventually killed 34.

In 1979, four people died of Legionnaire’s disease that originated at an Eau Claire motel. The bacteria was traced to a cooling tower on top of the motel.