On July 10, 2019, motorists passing through the Interstate 895/Baltimore Harbor Tunnel toll plaza likely noticed something unusual. There were no employees working the tolls, and only automated payments were being accepted.

What these motorists were witnessing was the city’s reaction to the news that two employees were diagnosed with legionellosis disease, also known as Legionnaires’ disease. The two employees have been treated, and officials say they aren’t certain the Maryland Transportation Authority’s administration building was the source of the illness.

Despite the measures taken by the Transportation Authority, it’s understandable that anyone worried about being infected would be concerned by this outbreak. Legionnaires’ disease is a very serious illness, and it is particularly dangerous for certain populations.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a very serious type of pneumonia, or lung infection, caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria. The bacteria are naturally occurring in freshwater environments, such as lakes and streams. The organisms pose a health risk when they multiply and spreads through a building’s water system.

Legionella can grow and spread in large plumbing systems, hot water heaters, hot tubs, shower heads and faucets. Though drinking water contaminated with Legionella typically doesn’t lead to Legionnaires’ disease, inhaling small droplets of water containing the bacteria does. It’s also rare, though not impossible, for someone exposed to another person with Legionnaires’ disease to become ill.

Though cases of this specific type of lung infection were documented as far back as the 1940s, a 1976 outbreak at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia is the source of the infection’s name. Today, Legionnaires’ disease is more common than many people realize, and the number of reported cases has been increasing since 2000.

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How Serious Is This Illness?

For certain populations, this form of pneumonia can be life-threatening. For older adults, cancer patients, people with chronic lung diseases, diabetics and anyone else with a compromised immune system, Legionnaires’ disease is a serious health risk.

Common symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, headaches, muscle cramping and aching. These symptoms manifest within two to 10 days of exposure to Legionella.

Legionnaires’ Disease in Maryland

In 2018, there were 361 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Maryland. In 2017, the most recent year for which national statistics are available, there were nearly 7,500 cases of Legionnaires’ disease reported in the United States. It’s important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that instances of Legionnaires’ disease are likely underreported, so it is possible that those numbers don’t accurately depict the threat posed by this illness.

The spread of Legionnaires’ disease can be contained through proper safety protocols. When an outbreak occurs, it is likely that somebody failed to do their job. Sufferers of Legionnaires’ disease shouldn’t have to pay the price for someone else’s negligence.

Steve Heisler is one of the few attorneys in the U.S. who represents clients in Legionnaires’ disease lawsuits. He has successfully handled several of these cases nationwide. If you have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, the expenses you’ve incurred could be the basis for a legal claim.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease and are considering taking legal action to recover the many damages you have faced, contact Steve Heisler today.