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Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Grand Rapids, Minn., is traced to municipal water system

Saint Paul Pioneer Press - 2/13/2024

Minnesota public health officials say they have traced an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Grand Rapids to the city’s water system.

According to the state Department of Health, 14 cases of the respiratory disease have been confirmed in the northern Minnesota community since April 2023.

The Department of Health has also been investigating the source of the outbreak, which sent 11 of the 14 adult victims to the hospital. No deaths have occurred to date.

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious form of pneumonia caused by inhaling Legionella bacteria found in water.

Infections can occur when contaminated water is misted and then inhaled, such as during showering. The Grand Rapids outbreak is believed to have been caused in this manner.

The Health Department says the Legionella bacteria can be found at low levels in any public water system. It is more likely in untreated water, which is the case in Grand Rapids. The city does not chlorinate its water supply because Minnesota systems that draw water from groundwater sources are not required to add disinfectant.

Grand Rapids officials say that for now, their priority is developing a plan to flush and disinfect the city’s water system.

Legionnaires’ disease is not spread from person to person or by drinking water.

People at increased risk of infection and severe illness include those 50 and older as well as current or former smokers. Other risk factors include chronic health conditions.

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