The state Health Department continues to investigate an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease cases in Saratoga Springs.
Of the 13 people diagnosed to date, two have died — but the Health Department said it was important to note that both had underlying health conditions.
In addition to seven that are associated with people who have stayed at or worked at the Wesley Health Care Center, DOH is investigating six other cases among people with no clear connection to the nursing home-senior housing facility. Both them people who have died were connected with Wesley.
“The investigation is ongoing and there are several potential sources being investigated,” the Health Department said in a statement issued Wednesday.
The matter first came to light on Oct. 21, when Wesley officials said three former patients and a staff member had been diagnosed with the pneumonia-like infection, and the state Health Department had recommended water-use restrictions.
The water restriction measures include use of water filters, bottled water and bagged ice.
“The water restriction plan includes the installation of water filters in a variety of settings, including showers and faucets,” Wesley said in a statement. “We have also transitioned from using drink stations to bottled waters and juices, and are using only bagged ice as needed.”
The health care center has been asked to evaluate its water system, which is connected to the Saratoga Springs city water supply. Three dozen water supply samples have been taken, and test results are expected back later this week.
“The experts and regulators at the New York State Department of Health, with whom we are in close contact, have advised us to continue with our normal operations, outside of the precautionary measures that we have taken to address these concerns,” Wesley’s statement said.
The infection can be spread in drinking water, but is not considered a communicable disease that can be spread from person to person.
The Health Department said most healthy people exposed to the Legionella bacteria do not become sick, but those over age 50, current and former smokers, and those with chronic lung disease or weak immune systems are at higher risk.
The department also said determining the source of an outbreak can be difficult.
The statement said that confirming an environmental source for the bacteria requires getting a sputum sample from an infected person, which the department said can be difficult or traumatic to obtain.
Even then, the department said bacteria is difficult to culture in a laboratory, which can in turn make it harder to determine a source.
About 5,000 people a year nationally are diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.
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