11 cases of Legionnaire’s disease confirmed in Chesterfield

Published: Aug. 9, 2019 at 10:38 AM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Health is investigating 11 cases of Legionnaire’s disease in Chesterfield County.

The cases have been confirmed since May 1 in older adults and people with other medical conditions.

Seven locations, including three schools, have tested positive for Legionella bacteria.

"The risk to residents or visitors to Chesterfield County is very small,” Chesterfield Health District Director Dr. Alexander Samuel said.

Following the findings of the tests, Greenfield Elementary School was closed and summer programs were moved to Weaver Elementary beginning July 29.

In a letter to parents, Chesterfield superintendent Merv Daughtery said a water cooling tower near the school is being disinfected. The letter said the tower was tested for the presence of Legionnaire’s-causing bacteria, known as Legionella, and a preliminary result is expected in about a week.

The letter said none of the students or teachers at the school have reported any illness linked to the Legionnaire’s outbreak.

Falling Creek Middle and Midlothian Middle were also closed at one point in order to treat the issue.

On August 8th, the following message was sent to families at Midlothian Middle School:

Message sent to Midlothian MS parents on August 8:

Midlothian Middle School remains closed today as we await confirmation through independent testing that extensive cleaning done last week on a cooling tower completely eliminated bacteria recently discovered outside of our building.

The school will remain closed until we receive that third-party confirmation that our remediation efforts were successful. We are hopeful to receive that clearance next Tuesday.

The closure is out of an abundance of caution. The school division has taken measures to disinfect the outside cooling tower and conduct additional maintenance. As we shared earlier, a test was conducted on an outside cooling tower located near the school building as the state sought to identify a source for Legionnaires’ illnesses identified in other parts of Chesterfield County. At this time, there is nothing that indicates our school building is a source for the illness.

Again, no Midlothian Middle students or staff have reported any related illnesses to the school division or the county health department.

With the closure, we will reschedule the last sixth-grade camp originally planned for next week. The camp now will be held Monday-Wednesday from 9 a.m.-noon from Aug. 19-21. Students who attended the shortened camp this week are invited to return on Thursday, Aug. 22 (9 a.m.-noon) to replace the day missed this week.

If a family cannot make the rescheduled date, we will apply camp costs to upcoming school fees.

Our orchestra night for rising 6th graders has been moved to Midlothian High School. Mr. Yohe will meet you there on Tuesday night (8/20) at 6:30.

We appreciate your patience as we work through this unexpected issue!“

CCPS says five schools in all were tested for the bacteria, Meadowbrook High, Falling Creek Middle, Midlothian Middle, Greenfield Elementary and Hopkins Elementary. The schools where bacteria was present had the bacteria on an outside cooling tower.

Dr. Samuel said anyone who develops pneumonia-like symptoms such as fever, chills, shortness of breath or muscle aches should seek medical treatment.

Legionnaire’s disease caused by bacteria that occurs naturally in lakes and streams.

“Getting it from a man-made sources requires inhaling it, not drinking it. So drinking water is not a concern,” Samuel said.

The Chesterfield Health District is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify the source of the bacteria responsible for the 10 confirmed cases and is currently aimed at ruling out possible sources.

Samuel says at this point, those in the area and county have nothing to fear.

“You don’t need to do anything extra at this point. Continue to live your lives and go on with business or pleasure for this time of year,” Samuel said.

The Department of Health said most people exposed to the bacteria do not get Legionnaire’s disease. People over age 50, smokers, those with chronic lung disease and other chronic health conditions as well as those with weakened immune systems are at increased risk.

Legionnaire’s disease is treatable with antibiotics.

The CDC says Legionnaire’s disease cases have increases nearly five and a half time since 2000. In 2018, there were 236 cases of Legionnaire’s disease in Virginia.

For more information Legionnaire’s disease, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website.

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