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How and when was Legionnaires’ disease discovered?

In July 1976, over 4,000 members of the American Legion met at a hotel in Philadelphia for the group’s annual convention.  Three days after the convention ended, several of the attendees became ill.  The symptoms experienced by each person were similar including shortness of breath, fever, and chest pain.  Within weeks, a total of 221 people had fallen ill.  Thirty-four of those people died. 

At first, the medical community did not understand how so people became ill or died.  However, after months of intensive research, Dr. Joseph McDade from the CDC identified the cause as a previously unknown bacterium which spread through the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system at the site of the convention.  This newly discovered bacterium was named Legionella pneumophila.  The disease associated with the bacteria is known as “Legionnaires’ disease.”

Where do we find the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease?

Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease are typically associated with improperly or poorly maintained water systems in hotels, casinos, assisted living facilities, cruise ships, apartment buildings, high rise buildings.  Legionnaires’ bacteria forms in water pumps and related mechanical systems when they are not properly installed, maintained or cleaned.  Numerous standards exist to guarantee the health and safety of large water systems.  Unfortunately, many businesses cut corners at the expense of their customers, visitors, and clients – with sometimes deadly results.

What does Legionnaires’ disease do to the human body?

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia.  Symptoms typically develop within 2-14 days following exposure to the legionella bacteria and include headache, muscle ache, cough, shortness of breath, fever, excessive mucus production, abdominal pain, and confusion. 

Legionnaires’ disease is extremely serious if left untreated.  Complications from Legionnaires’ disease can include respiratory failure, kidney failure, septic shock, and multi-organ failure.  Legionnaires’ disease can be deadly, especially for those who are older, smoke or have compromised immune systems.

Do I have a case if I get Legionnaires’ disease from a poorly maintained water system?

Absolutely, yes.  If you or a loved one caught Legionnaires’ disease after visiting a hotel, casino, assisted living facility, hospital, apartment building, cruise ship or other large building or structure, there’s a good chance that the water system was the cause.  The failure to repair and maintain a larger water system is never your fault.  Your damages may include monetary compensation for pain and suffering, resulting medical problems, long-term medical care, loss of consortium, and in some cases, punitive damages.  Although each case is different, Legionnaires’ disease cases can be worth hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars depending on the facts and circumstances.

Should I call Riley Ersoff & Shakhnis if I or a loved one have Legionnaires’ disease?

Yes, without a doubt.  Victoria Ersoff, a name partner with Riley Ersoff & Shakhnis has worked on more Legionnaires’ disease cases than almost any attorney in the United States.  Victoria knows the science of Legionnaires’ disease, the methods used to confirm the source of exposure to Legionella bacteria and, most importantly, what it takes to win these cases.  Victoria and the other attorneys at Riley Ersoff & Shakhnis work with the best physicians, water scientists and engineers in the business so they can get you the best possible result. 

If you or a loved one has Legionnaires’ disease, call us now.  Get a free consultation and let us help you and your family get the help and compensation you deserve.

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