Healy Scanlon Law Firm

Chicago nursing homes should learn from recent disease outbreak


A disease outbreak has caught not only the attention of Chicago, Illinois, residents, but those throughout the entire country, as well. The outbreak, which has been traced to a nursing home in Alabama, has left one person dead and more than a dozen others infected. Legionnaires' disease, a fatal type of pneumonia caused by a bacterial infection, was confirmed by health officials as the cause of the fatality.

An unnamed 80-year-old woman was confirmed as the one fatality of the disease. Ten residents of the nursing home were infected, as well as three visitors. Legionnaires' disease cannot be spread from person to person. However, people can get the disease by inhaling contaminated vapor or mist. That means that air conditioning systems and contaminated shower water may carry the bacteria.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 8,000 and 18,000 people are infected annually with Legionnaires' disease. The symptoms are similar to pneumonia, which makes it hard to diagnose during its onset. People over 50 years of age, those with weak immune systems and those with lung disease are more vulnerable. Although it is treatable, five to 30 percent of Legionnaires' disease cases turn fatal because of lung failure and other complications.

The recent case can serve as a reminder for Chicago nursing homes to provide the best possible care for residents. Nursing homes should bear in mind that advanced age and failing health make a resident prone to infections. Thus, a home should keep its facilities sanitized and ensure that its staff remains free of contagious diseases.

Failure to carry out those legally required tasks, which, in turn, result in a resident's death or injury may constitute Chicago nursing home neglect. A family member can hold a nursing home criminally liable in such a case and may seek reparation for any damages. The same can be done in elder abuse cases.

Source: Ibtimes.com, "Legionnaires'' Disease Outbreak In Alabama Kills Elderly Woman: 5 things To Know About Legionella Bacteria," Philip Ross, Oct. 19, 2013

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