4 in Lowell Contract Legionnaires’ Disease
LOWELL -- Four people have contracted Legionnaires’ disease in the city over the past couple months, cases that are unrelated to the recent outbreak in Hampton Beach, N.H., Lowell health officials confirmed Thursday afternoon.
“There are individual cases that have come up in the city,” said Brendan Flynn, deputy director of finance for Lowell’s Health and Human Services.
The disease can be fatal. It cannot be passed via person-to-person contact.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health could not confirm these cases in Lowell, but said that isolated or sporadic cases of Legionnaires’ disease do not pose a public health concern.
A spokesperson for the Department of Public Health said states throughout New England are seeing increased numbers of sporadic cases -- likely due to warm, humid weather.
These weather conditions support the growth of Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, which is found naturally in freshwater.
Lisa Cosseboom, 49, of Lowell, told The Sun that she had contracted Legionnaires’, and was being discharged from Lowell General Hospital on Thursday. She said the symptoms came on abruptly -- high fever, chills, vomiting and diarrhea.
She added that she had not been to Hampton Beach recently.
“When I was there (in the hospital), I heard other patients with it,” Cosseboom said. “I’m concerned about other people getting infected and not knowing they have it. I feel bad for people who are not aware.”
The disease in Hampton resulted in one death and more than a dozen people infected. It was tied to hot tubs, which in general are a known source of the bacteria. Legionnaires’ is often contracted when people inhale small drops of water containing Legionella bacteria.
Cosseboom, who had the disease almost a decade ago, said she believes she got it this time from a hot tub.
“The conditions right now are prime for bacteria,” she said.
“I’m feeling OK now,” Cosseboom added. “I hope to be back to work on Monday.”
Legionellosis is a reportable disease in Massachusetts, and the state Department of Public Health coordinates follow-ups, in conjunction with local boards of health, on every reported case in order to identify possible sources of exposure, and identify outbreaks or clusters of cases.
Laboratory tests that are positive for legionella are automatically and electronically reported to the state, which triggers a public health investigation with the medical facility and ordering provider, according to a spokesperson.
The disease draws its name from its first known outbreak.
In 1976, 182 of more than 2,000 attendees at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia contracted the disease, which killed 29 people.
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.