If you contracted Legionnaires’ disease while visiting Northern California, you could be entitled to compensation. Legionnaires’ disease, sometimes called Legionellosis, can result in life-threatening or fatal respiratory infection. Victims can contract this illness when hotels and resorts fail to take steps to protect visitors or warn them of a potential outbreak.
If you developed pneumonia after exposure to Legionella, you could have the right to pursue a legal claim. A Legionnaires’ disease attorney can help you recover the compensation you deserve for your economic and non-economic damages.
What Is Legionnaires’ Disease?
This condition, an especially severe form of pneumonia, develops as a result of exposure to the Legionella bacteria.
According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Legionnaires’ disease develops after victims inhale small droplets of water containing Legionella. Exposure also occurs from drinking water that contains this bacterium.
Victims can also develop a less severe illness known as Pontiac fever as a result of Legionella exposure. Pontiac fever typically resolves on its own, without medical treatment. Legionnaires’ disease, however, can lead to death if left untreated. Treatment typically consists of a course of antibiotic medication. Doctors might also recommend or prescribe other treatments to help ease your symptoms.
Legionnaires’ Disease Symptoms & Signs
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease typically appear between two and 10 days after exposure. However, some victims do not experience symptoms until 14 days after exposure.
Symptoms can include some or all of the following.
- Shortness of breath,
- Headache, and
- Muscle aches.
Although less common, some victims experience nausea, diarrhea, and confusion.
Pontiac fever, the less severe version of Legionella infection, presents primarily with muscle aches and fever. Victims can experience symptoms within hours or as late as three days after exposure. Symptoms of Pontiac fever typically last not more than a week.
Common Sources of Legionnaires’ Infection
The first documented incidence of Legionnaires’ disease occurred in Philadelphia in 1976. Attendees of an American Legion convention developed symptoms within days. Ultimately, more than 130 victims were hospitalized and 25 of them lost their lives.
In almost every reported case since then, Legionella developed and multiplied in the water system of a large building. When contaminated water circulates through air conditioning systems (or any type of man-made water system), bacteria can be expelled into the building’s indoor air. Unsuspecting victims become ill simply by being inside the contaminated building and breathing the air.
Cooling towers take hot water out of a system, cool it, and then recycle that cooled-off water back into the system. They provide ideal conditions for Legionellabacteria to grow when the water temperature falls between the range of 68-122 degrees. As the cooling tower moves that air through a recirculated water system, it releases water vapor into the air. If that water vapor is laden with Legionellabacteria, people even up to a few miles away can become sick by inhaling the water vapor.
Contaminated water may also circulate in swimming pools, water fountains, and hot tubs. These building features can also release Legionella into the air. Although rare, victims can also contract the disease by ingesting bacteria-laden water.
What You Need to Know About Legionnaires’ Disease
Even if you seek treatment for Legionnaires’ disease, you could experience serious complications. The severe type of lung inflammation caused by Legionella bacteria can lead to lung failure and, ultimately, death. In fact, the CDC reports that one of every 10 people who contract this disease will lose their life.
Another risk of this disease is the development of secondary infections. Victims can develop infection in other parts of the body, including the heart. If you have any existing wounds, you also face the risk of developing an infection at those sites.
Even victims who survive a bout of Legionnaires’ disease are not in the clear. Victims face the potential of ongoing problems including recurring or chronic lung conditions. These conditions can significantly degrade your quality of life. You could require expensive medical treatment and, in some cases, your condition may prevent you from fulfilling your job duties.
Are Some People More Susceptible to Legionnaires’ Disease?
According to the Mayo Clinic, some people have a higher risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease. Older adults (those aged 50 or above) and anyone with a compromised immune system have a higher risk of susceptibility. Current and former smokers also face an increased risk of contracting this disease. Anyone who suffers from a chronic lung disease, including asthma, COPD, and emphysema, faces increased risk. Finally, anyone with cancer or chronic illness (diabetes, kidney failure, liver failure, etc.) has a higher risk of contracting this infection.
Even without any of these risk factors, you could be more susceptible to contracting this infection in certain environments. For example, if you spend time in a pool or hot tub—you face an increased risk of getting Legionnaires’ disease. Likewise, spending time around decorative water fountains and mister systems increases your risk. In San Francisco, you would struggle to find any hotel or resort that doesn’t have fountains and water features around every turn.
Recent Northern California Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreaks
Despite this condition being completely preventable, the rate of Legionnaires’ disease infection has risen steadily in the United States since 2000.
The history of Legionnaires’ disease in Northern California includes multiple incidents.
Between June 25 and August 15, 2022, 17 people ranging in ages of 40-83 were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, including one death, stemming from a recent outbreak in Napa County. High levels of Legionella bacteria were discovered in the cooling tower and in a decorative fountain at the Embassy Suites Napa Valley. The cooling tower at the County Hall of Justice a few miles away was also implicated.
A husband and wife landed in a Long Beach, California hospital, both diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease after visiting a San Jose Cupertino hotel. An investigation by the County of Santa Clara Department of Environmental Health found high levels of Legionella in the spa and no detectable levels of chlorine in any of the water samples collected.
Experts believe that many cases go undiagnosed and unreported. If you or a loved one develops any Legionnaires’ disease symptoms after visiting a hotel or resort, seek medical attention immediately. Advise your doctor that you visited a San Francisco hotel or resort and request testing for a Legionella exposure.
What Should You Do If You Were Exposed to Legionnaires’ Disease?
In Northern California, Legionnaires’ disease cases don’t have to occur—yet they do. Riley | Ersoff partner and attorney Victoria L. Ersoff has handled thousands Legionnaires’ claims across the United States. Victoria’s detailed knowledge of the cause and effect of Legionnaires’ disease and her experience in successfully litigating these extremely complex cases is unmatched.
Victoria and our experienced team of litigators are dedicated to helping victims who sustained harm due to someone’s negligence. We handle every aspect of your case and fight to get you every dollar possible for your damages. Because we focus exclusively on these types of cases, we have vast experience and knowledge in our field. To date, our team has recovered over $120 million in damages for our clients. Please visit our website to view some of our results. Contact us today to set up a consultation for your Northern California Legionnaires’ disease lawsuit. We look forward to serving you!