An attorney for the family of a woman who died in a nursing home after being diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease has indicated a likely nursing home negligence lawsuit, asserting the facility didn’t do enough to prevent the spread of the deadly bacteria.
The 86-year-old patient at the New York nursing home reportedly died in late October, just days after her son was informed that she had contracted the Legionella bacteria. The decedent had endured several bouts of what health care workers thought was pneumonia. She was finally diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease by staffers at the hospital where she was transported when her condition worsened. Doctors released her from the hospital after several days, telling her son there was nothing more they could do for her. As the plaintiff would later learn, four others at that same nursing home had tested positive for the Legionella bacteria.
The Legionella bacteria causes infections that can result in either Legionnaires’ disease, which is a progressive pneumonia with a two- to 10-day incubation period, or Pontiac fever, which has a one- to two-day incubation period and causes a flu-like illness. It’s an aquatic organism, meaning it thrives in warm water and is spread into the respiratory system through contaminated droplets. Cases of the disease have been linked to cooling towers, showers and faucets, hot tubs, respiratory therapy equipment, room air humidifiers, and potable water systems. Nursing home residents are especially vulnerable not just to exposure to the disease, as a result of living in close quarters with shared water systems, but also to falling extremely ill from that exposure, due to weakened immune systems and co-morbidity. Those who are over the age of 50 in general have a high risk, as do those dealing with renal disease, blood cancers, and recent organ transplants.
Some symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:
- Muscle Aches
- Shortness of Breath
It’s typically treatable with antibiotics, but that depends on how quickly it’s diagnosed and treated. Most people with the disease can make a full recovery, but they are often hospitalized. That in itself creates a heightened risk of illness and injury for an elderly nursing home patient. Approximately one in 10 people who get Legionnaires’ disease will die from it, and nursing home patients have among the highest risks.
Of course, as our Charlotte nursing home negligence lawyers know, not every illness or death suffered by a nursing home patient is the result of wrongdoing by the staffers or facility. In many cases, it can be difficult to determine whether there could be liability. Still, loved ones should seek a consultation with an injury attorney because there is a possibility, even if the patient had an existing illness, that a failure to properly treat it worsened the condition or led to a much poorer outcome.
In the case out of New York, the decedent’s son said his primary goals are to hold the nursing home accountable and to raise awareness so that other families know what to look for. The attorney for the decedent’s son said he is waiting to file the lawsuit until all the test results come back, and the exact source of the bacteria is discovered. Any future claims filed would likely point to a failure by hospital staffers to adhere to appropriate care standards.
As the holidays near, and families will be making additional visits to their loved ones in nursing homes, it’s important to take note of any indication of abuse or negligence that may warrant closer inspection.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Lawsuit likely in Legionnaire case in Saratoga Springs, Nov. 21, 2016, Staff Report, The Saratogian
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Hall v. Flannery – Expert Witness Must Meet Basic Requisites, Nov. 16, 2016, Charlotte Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog