Updated: Nov 16, 2018
Outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease in South Dakota Causing Concern
The number of Legionnaires' disease cases in South Dakota is rising with 24 confirmed cases so far in 2018. Fourteen of those were in Sioux Falls alone. All 14 people were hospitalized and one died. South Dakota typically sees between eight and 15 cases of Legionnaires’ disease reported each year.
“This year we have seen more than usual cases, and primarily the cases have been from patients in Sioux Falls,” says Avera Health’s Dr. Jawad Nazir.
People contract the disease by breathing in the mist of water contaminated with legionella bacteria.
Health officials don’t know what has caused this outbreak but the State Health Department is investigating.
Nazir says heavy rainfall or man-made water systems can contribute to outbreaks.
“For example, with the cooling towers in big buildings, plumbing systems, decorative fountains, hot tubs, showers, the bacteria can multiply in sufficient concentration which can lead to the aerosolization of the water droplets and can cause disease,” says Nazir.
Of the 14 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Sioux Falls, the patients range in age from 36 to 80.
Nazir says those who are fifty years or older, smokers, and those with diabetes or cancer are at a higher risk for getting the disease.
“The diagnosis of legionnaires pneumonia can be challenging because it can present with a variety of symptoms,” says Nazir.
These symptoms include muscle aches, headaches, coughing and a fever. Nazir urges people not to ignore these signs.
“Amongst the patients who get a severe form of pneumonia due to legionella one in ten may die. That’s why it’s so important to diagnose it in a timely fashion and treat appropriately,” says Nazir.
Those infected with Legionnaires’ disease so far either live in or have traveled to Sioux Falls.
Nazir says until officials know the cause of the outbreak they can’t tell people how to prevent them from getting sick.
Information from: KDLT NBC News & KSFY ABC News.