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Friday, 02 December 2016 12:27
Lawsuit to be Brought in Legionnaires’ Death
SARATOGA SPRINGS — James Earl Johnson of Gansevoort learned that his mother, Alice Johnson, 86, had Legionnaires’ disease a few days before her death on October 26. She had been a resident of The Wesley Community, a senior care and senior living facility in Saratoga Springs. Her case was one of 19 cases now confirmed by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) in Saratoga County. Johnson recently retained Attorney Michael Conway of Harris, Conway and Donovan, PLLC, to investigate the matter on behalf of his mother’s estate. Conway has served Freedom of Information Law requests to DOH, the Saratoga County Health Department, and the city of Saratoga Springs Department of Public Works. Once obtaining information that clearly identifies the source of the Legionella, his firm will bring a lawsuit on behalf of the estate. The law firm is also representing Susan Gonino, one of the confirmed cases, who has stated she had no contact with The Wesley Community. According to DOH, there are 12 cases associated with Wesley Health Care Center that are currently under investigation, and 7 cases in Saratoga County that are not associated with the facility. Two of the Wesley cases have died, however both had underlying health conditions. “We are investigating whether the common link is the city water supply,” said Conway, “and we’re hoping the department of health is looking into that issue.” A prepared statement from DOH said, “The New York State Department of Health continues to closely monitor cases of Legionellosis in the Saratoga Springs area. Multiple sources have been investigated, including construction on the municipal water system. As a precautionary step, state DOH recommended water restrictions for the facility, which it has implemented. The Department will continue to work aggressively to identify an environmental source and protect against any additional cases in the Saratoga area.” According to Saratoga Springs Public Works Commissioner “Skip” Scirocco, the municipal water construction taking place on Woodlawn Avenue is a line not in service yet. “As far as we know, we have not been contacted by the health department,” said Scirocco. “They haven’t said there are any issues with the city’s water.” At the time of the interview, Scirocco had not yet received the forthcoming FOIL request from Conway. “The water treatment plant was just upgraded a few years ago,” said Scirocco. “It could be from somebody’s hot water heater or from someone’s house.” The Legionella bacteria exist naturally in water and moist soil. For illness to occur, an individual would have to breath it in from a mist, such as from evaporative condensers, air conditioning cooling towers, or even home vaporizers that are not regularly cleaned. It is not uncommon for the illness to be diagnosed as a mild respiratory disease or even pneumonia. An increased awareness and focus on Legionnaires’ disease has led to a greater likelihood of detection and diagnosis by health care providers and does not necessarily mean there has been an increase in the number of Legionella cases in New York State. Between 200 and 800 cases are diagnosed annually statewide.