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Second case of Legionnaire's disease reported at Ellicott City retirement community

A case of a severe form of pneumonia prompts management at Miller's Grant to shut off water in three apartment buildings on Monday.
A case of a severe form of pneumonia prompts management at Miller's Grant to shut off water in three apartment buildings on Monday. (Fatimah Waseem)

The Lutheran Village at Miller's Grant, a newly opened retirement community in Ellicott City, will shut off water in three apartment buildings on Sunday after a second resident was diagnosed with Legionnaire's disease, a severe type of pneumonia.

The disease is caused by breathing in small drops of water that contain the bacteria legionella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The source of the infection is unclear, according to Lisa Albin, the director of church and public relations at the Lutheran Village at Miller's Grant. Miller's Grant management became aware of the second case when the family notified management on Saturday morning. The resident, who was already hospitalized for an unrelated issue, is in the hospital and recovering, according to Albin.

Residents should not use the facility's tap water, Albin said.

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Management learned of the first case of the disease in late May, said Albin. The resident is recovering at the facility, Albin said. The disease is not contagious and the resident is not quarantined.

Symptoms, which include coughing, shortness of breath, muscle aches, high fever and headaches, can appear between two to 10 days after exposure to a water source. The affected resident lived at the facility for four days before becoming ill.

Sources of the infection include large or complex water systems. The disease, which can be treated by antibiotics, most adversely affects individuals 50 years old or older, or individuals who suffer from chronic lung disease and a weakened immune system.

Most people diagnosed with the disease need care in a hospital and make a full recovery, according to the CDC.

Miller's Grant will begin treating its water on Sunday by adding chlorine to the water and opening all water outlets to let treated water flow through pipes and fixtures. Then the entire system is flushed thoroughly, Albin said, to remove the chlorine. The treatment will likely last 12 hours. The second case prompted management to expedite treatment, which was originally planned for Monday.

Water will be shut off for three apartment buildings and a community center during the 12-hour treatment process.

"Other than the fact that [residents] can't use their water, it's business as normal," said Albin. "We have been using an overabundance of caution because we care deeply about the health and safety of our residents."

Management will provide bottled water for residents and make alternate arrangements for meals since the kitchen will also be affected by the shutdown. Individual homes and an unoccupied apartment building will not be impacted by the shutdown. Residents will be able to use restrooms in the unoccupied apartment building, which has not opened yet, Albin said.

Testing will be conducted before and after the treatment process to determine if Legionella bacteria are present in the facility, according to a letter sent to residents on Friday.

Albin said the family contacted the county's health department about the case. No one at the county's health department was immediately available for requests for comment.

The retirement facility officially opened in April after nearly a decade of planning. The project includes 276 residences and other community amenities on 50 acres of former farmland next to the Miller Branch library. The developer, Carroll Lutheran Village, a Westminster-based retirement community built in 1980, has spent more than $105 million in construction as of April.

Albin said residents who exhibit symptoms of the disease should contact their physician..

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This story has been updated.

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