Legionnaires' disease confirmed in Clermont

The Florida Department of Health confirmed Tuesday that two more cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been positively identified in Central Florida.

The Lake County branch of the Health Department has traced the latest cases back to the Summit Greens senior living community in Clermont. Department Epidemiologist Giselle Barreto said that the only common factor between the two patients was the use of a hot tub in one of the community’s club areas.

Legionnaires' disease is a form on pneumonia that grows as a bacteria in warm water sources. Barreto said in can occur in the natural water sources but is often found in places like hot tubs, air conditioning units, and shower drains where water can get stagnant.

"When that water is pushed through the jets of a hot tub it can aerosolize those water droplets that may contain Legionella,” said Barreto.

The illness is rare with less than 20,000 cases in the U.S. on average each year, but Barreto said it tends to be about 10 percent fatal. Those most vulnerable to Legionnaires’ include people over 50, current and former smokers, and those with lung issues.

On Monday the Orange County branch of the Department of Health announced four cases of the illness that they’d linked to two LA Fitness centers in south Orlando.

Barreto said Legionnaires’ can only be caught through exposure to the bacteria and not through person to person contact. She said the Orlando cases and the Clermont ones likely are not related.

According to Orlando Health Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, Legionnaires’ starts off with flu like symptoms and then leads to respiratory issues. He said the illness can be in a person’s system between two to 10 days before it shows up as well, so he recommends that anyone who has symptoms appear seeks medical attention right away.

"If you start having these symptoms then go and get checked out because there's ways we can test for it pretty quickly and it's best that we start treatment pretty fast,” said Brahmbhatt.

The Florida Department of Health has advised both the fitness centers and the Clermont community of the steps necessary to eliminate the bacteria from their facilities.

Both LA Fitness and Summit Greens’ management company Leland Management released statements Tuesday saying that they have followed those guidelines and are taking all precautions to prevent the illness. Both did point out though that testing for the bacteria has not come back yet, so there is no confirmation that their facilities were definitely the sources for the problems.

The Florida Department of Health’s representatives said those locations were identified because they were the common bonds between the people who got sick.