Fresno nursing home patient dies of Legionnaires’ disease

Fresno Bee File Photo

Fresno County health officials said Monday a nursing home resident has died of Legionnaires’ disease.

The patient’s identity, age and date of death were not released because of patient confidentiality laws, but health officials said they have been investigating Legionnaires’ disease at NorthPointe Health Centre on East Bullard Avenue since Jan. 23.

No other cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been identified from the nursing home, the officials said.

This is the second nursing home in northeast Fresno to have Legionnaires’ disease investigated by the health department in the past two months. In January, officials said the bacteria had been found at Horizon Health & Subacute Center on East Herndon Avenue. A resident there had been been diagnosed with the respiratory disease, but the infection was not fatal. No other cases have been reported at Horizon.

Legionella bacteria is converted into a fine spray and is inhaled or sometimes aspirated.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused when water that is contaminated with the Legionella bacteria is converted into a fine spray and is inhaled, or less often, is aspirated. The bacteria causes pneumonia that is not contagious.

People most at risk are those with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and immune disorders, but smokers and people who are older than age 50 also are at higher risk of infection. About 10 percent of people infected with the disease die.

Water restrictions, such as not using showers, drinking only bottled water and not using ice from machines, are ways to control the spread of the infection in health care institutions.

At NorthPointe, Fresno County health officials have recommended point-of-use filters for showers, no use of ice machines, bottled water for drinking and sterile water for all respiratory machines. The recommendations are to remain in effect until a remediation plan is developed and implemented, the health officials said.

Carrie Vigil, administrator at NorthPointe, said showers resumed at the nursing home on Feb. 6 once filters were installed and the health department gave its approval. “Until that time bed baths were being provided with bottled water and gentle skin wipes to ensure residents received appropriate care,” she said in an email. Bottled drinking water has been provided since the health department alerted the nursing home of concerns.

She would not discuss the resident’s death. “For patient confidentiality, we are not able to comment on specific patient information,” Vigil said.

Dr. Kenneth Bird, health officer for Fresno County, said Horizon continues to be on previously required restrictions “until the planned remediation can be carried out, which is expected very soon.”

In the past couple of years, Legionnaires’ disease cases have been increasing nationwide, and In November Bird sent letters to hospitals recommending they test patients admitted for pneumonia for Legionella. He also recommended hospitals and long-term care institutions follow water management guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent and control the growth of the bacteria in their water systems.

Barbara Anderson: 559-441-6310, @beehealthwriter