Alomere Health in Alexandria is working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health to investigate two local cases of Legionnaires' disease associated with the hospital that have been reported 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 Health hospital 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. They will conduct a complete assessment and testing of the facility’s water system and address potential sources for the bacteria. In addition, Alomere has implemented MDH recommendations to reduce the risk of exposure to patients and employees. The recommendations are based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. Alomere Health is in the process of notifying patients and their families of those who may be at higher risk about this report and recommendations which have been implemented.

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.

Any patients, including those who have scheduled surgical cases, should feel confident that Alomere Health has taken all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of all patients, according to hospital leaders. If you have any questions about your scheduled procedure, contact your clinic or your provider to answer any of your questions.

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If you have any questions or concerns that you or a loved one may be experiencing any of these symptoms, contact Alomere Health at 320-762-6019 and ask for Bonnie Freudenberg, Director of Quality, Margaret Kalina, VP of patient care services, or the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414. If you have questions over the weekend, contact Alomere Health’s Nursing Supervisor at 320-762-6139.

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.