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South Florida and Legionnaires’ Disease and the Law

Miami Legionnaires Disease Law.jpgSouth Florida had its share of Legionnaires’ Disease outbreaks over the recent years. Florida’s Department of Health defines “Legionnaires’ Disease” as an infection caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophilia. Symptoms associated with the disease often include muscle aches, high fever, cough, and chills. Unfortunately, as noted by the Florida Department of Health, this disease “thrive[s] in warm, aquatic environments.” The Department and U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that between 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized yearly in the United States as a result of the disease.

While Legionnaires’ is not contagious in the sense that one person can pass it along to another, it can –and usually is– contracted when a person inhales the bacterium when it is airborne. For example, back in 2009, the disease killed one and caused 300 others to relocate from the EPIC Hotel in Miami. As one news outlet reported, investigators discovered that the hotel’s installed water filtration system at the time was so powerful that it removed chlorine from the “city-supplied water source,” which in turn caused the bacteria to grow. In this case, the bacterial disease could spread via “contaminated water vapor.” In a hotel setting, water sources contaminated with the bacterium can spread through the use of the faucet or shower, specifically through the mist that is emitted from such water.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) provides some literature on the topic, noting how in addition to faucets and showers–hot tubs, pools, and decorative fountains are also sources that could become potentially contaminated with the bacterium under the right conditions. The CDC also notes of particular preventative measures you can take to guard these water sources from the disease. These measures include making sure to maintain the appropriate pH levels and disinfectant to combat the bacteria.

Florida law requires that hotels, resorts and condominiums operators to exercise reasonable care for the safety of their residents and guests. This include proper maintenance of their aquatic vessels, air conditioners and showers including taking and preventative measures to lessen the likelihood that Legionella could build up and spread.

If you or a loved one is exhibiting symptoms common with those who have contracted the disease, please be sure to seek immediate medical attention. Also be sure to consult the literature available on the Florida Department of Health and the CDC’s website. If you like a free consultation as to your legal rights, feel free to contact. our South Florida lawyers.