By Catharin Shepard
A resident at Autumn Care nursing home tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease last week and nursing home staff are working with city, county and state officials to make sure the disease is contained and not a threat to the public at large.
Legionnaires’ disease causes a severe form of pneumonia. The bacterium that causes it is carried through water. People become ill when they breathe in steam from the water that contains a concentrated amount of the bacteria. Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person contact.
Nursing home director Danielle Yates said that the nursing home learned of the woman’s infection on Friday and immediately turned off the water in the sinks and showers.
“We’re trying to be proactive,” she said. The nursing home had a conference call with state public health officials Saturday. The state ordered the nursing home to test all residents who have had pneumonia in the last six months. Two more people tested positive for the disease, but their cases were dormant and not symptomatic, Yates said.
Raeford City Manager Dennis Baxley said Wednesday that it is safe to use city water. The city has been working with the state Department of Natural Resources to test the water for any sign of Legionnaires’ disease and all the tests have been negative. The city is at this point trying to make sure it is contained to the nursing home, Baxley said.
“On our end we’ve pulled additional samples, bacteriological samples to confirm that it’s contained, that it’s not in the city water supply. All the samples we have pulled have been negative,” he said.
The city water department is also working to test and re-test the nursing home’s water system.
“We’re reviewing their cross connection and backflow assemblies,” Baxley said.
“There’s no concern that it’s in the city,” he said. “…right now it’s a matter of containment for us.”
The nursing home is sending out memos to patients who are oriented and able to understand the situation and the families of those who are cognitively impaired.
Baxley said he has had a crash course in Legionnaires’ disease in the last few days.
“It’s a water-born bacteria and it’s typically found in saunas, hot tubs, hot water systems and it’s found naturally in rivers, streams, ponds. The stuff is everywhere. From my research when it’s in concentrated quantities that there’s a problem,” he said. “It’s steam, it’s not necessarily the water. It has to be a mist of a steam and it has to be breathed in.”
The nursing home has installed microfilters to remove any bacteria and said they expect the water at Autumn Care to be turned back on Wednesday, but still will not use it for drinking water. That is being supplied through bottles.
The city continues to work with the state to monitor the situation, Baxley said.
“We have no indication that this thing has spread beyond Autumn Care,” he said.