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Alexandria hospital investigating Legionnaires' cases

The Douglas County Hospital’s new name – Alomere Health – is unveiled at a ceremony near the hospital’s entrance last May in Alexandria. Al Edenloff / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL - The Minnesota Department of Health is working with an Alexandria health care facility after two cases of Legionnaires' disease were reported at that hospital since November.

In order to determine a possible source for the infections, Alomere Health is engaging an independent environmental consultant at the recommendation of the health department who has expertise in examining reports involving the disease.

Legionnaires' disease is a very serious type of pneumonia caused by bacteria called Legionella. Legionella becomes a health problem when small droplets of water that contain the bacteria get into the air and people breathe them in. People do not spread Legionnaires' disease to other people.

Most people exposed to Legionella do not develop Legionnaires' disease. People at increased risk include individuals over the age of 50, smokers or those with certain medical conditions including weakened immune systems, and those with diabetes, chronic lung disease or other chronic health conditions.

Symptoms of the Legionella bacteria include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, chills, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and coughing. If you develop these or any pneumonia symptoms and may have been exposed to Legionella, seek medical attention right away especially if you have been at Alomere in the last two weeks.

In the first Legionnaires' case at Alomere, the person became ill with the bacterial infection in late November and subsequently recovered. The patient in the second case developed symptoms in late January and remains hospitalized.

MDH and Alomere are working together to identify possible sources for the Legionella bacteria.

Alexandria’s municipal water supply meets water quality standards. MDH has asked health care providers in the Alexandria area to watch for any additional patients with symptoms that may indicate Legionnaires’ disease. Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial pneumonia that can be severe, so prompt diagnosis and antibiotic treatment is important, according to health officials.

In 2018, Minnesota had more than 150 cases reported around the state.

Legionnaires' disease takes its name from an outbreak at the Pennsylvania American Legion convention held at a Philadelphia hotel in July 1976. The bacterium believed to be responsible is found in soil and grows in water, such as air-conditioning ducts, storage tanks and rivers.