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Health department investigates legionellosis outbreak at Clearwater retirement center

CLEARWATER — A Clearwater retirement center is under investigation after two residents were diagnosed last month with legionellosis, previously known as Legionnaires' disease.

The cases occurred at the Regency Oaks retirement community at 2720 Regency Oaks Blvd. The facility reported the incidents to the Florida Department of Health.

Legionellosis is a respiratory illness that spreads through mist or water vapor, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and occurs most often in aquatic settings where the water is warm and somewhat stagnant. Complications can include lung failure and death.

The infected Clearwater residents were treated at an area hospital. One was released and the other is "responding to treatment," Regency Oaks executive director Brant Spence said.

The bacterial disease, which does not spread through human contact, was found in residents who live in different parts of the two-building complex. Investigators are still determining the source of the outbreak, but believe it may have been a hot tub, Florida Department of Health spokeswoman Maggie Hall said.

"At this point, we consider the investigation still open. We're monitoring for any new cases," Hall said.

Still, Regency Oaks isn't taking any chances, Spence said.

"We've never had a (legionellosis) outbreak before, so we've just been trying to keep in close communication with residents," he said.

As a safety precaution, Regency Oaks closed its pool and spa, and has begun using a special washing process for all produce served in its dining facilities. Regency Oaks has 416 residents.

The name of the disease is derived from an outbreak in Philadelphia in 1976 among people attending an American Legion convention. That was the first time the bacterium that causes the disease was identified.

Matt McKinney can be reached at mmckinney@tampabay.com or at (727) 445-4156,

Health department investigates legionellosis outbreak at Clearwater retirement center 07/01/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 1:11am]

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