May 12, 2011: Worker at Local Clinic Dies from Legionnaires' Disease
For tens of thousands of mostly low income patients, the center is a lifeline, but a mysterious death has visited one of its employees.
But Dr. Wendell Brunner, the Contra Costa County public health director, said later Wednesday that investigators “have no evidence that the building is connected to the death.”
“We're not making the connection between that building an either of these cases,” said Brunner. “We believe this building is safe for our staff and our patients.”
Janice Smith, another staff member on long-term medical leave, contracted the disease three years ago while working at the center.
“Eight days in ICU, two days on the floor and I've been out of work since '08,” said Smith.
“They kept saying it was condensation from the air conditioning,” said Smith. “They've been fighting about it for a long time, until OSHA went out and they found it in the air conditioning tank on the roof.”
“We are going to be culturing the building,” said Brunner. “We do expect to find bacteria, and probably be doing another water system disinfection.”
At the time she fell ill, Smith blamed conditions at the center for her illness and said that the center’s reaction is similar to what occurred after she was diagnosed.
“They're having big meetings now,” said Smith. “My co-worker called me and said they're doing the same thing: denying, denying, denying.”
The good news is that this building will be replaced with a brand new one which begins construction in just nine days.
The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention says between 8 and 18,000 people in the us are hospitalized with the illness every year, but that many infections are not diagnosed or reported, so the number may actually be higher.
The agency also said the illness is more prevalent in the summer and early fall.