Legionella bacteria, which can lead to Legionnaires’ disease, has been found in the water system of the Morris County Correctional Facility in Morristown, making the jail the third county-owned building to test positive since July. No one at the facility — which averages a daily population of 200 inmates — has been diagnosed with the disease, according to county administrator John Bonanni.
Some housing units at the 18-year-old jail are no longer used, and though toilets are flushed and water is run in the unused units, officials said, water stagnating in the pipes is one likely source of the bacteria. Water taps in individual cells are not a source of the bacteria because of their design. New filtration systems will be installed.
Legionnaires’ disease, a severe case of bacterial pneumonia, is named after an outbreak that occurred among attendees of an American Legion convention at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia in 1976. Legionella bacteria is naturally found in the environment and prone to growing in hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, cooling towers and decorative fountains. The bacteria is inhaled, not ingested or passed from person to person.
The bacteria was also detected in water systems at the 283-bed Morris View Healthcare Center; and at Homeless Solutions, a non-profit homeless shelter housed in a county-owned structure in Morris Township.
Six patients have died, and twelve others are infected, as the result of a severe outbreak of adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, a long-term care facility for medically fragile children.
Nurses at the center, which came under for-profit ownership in 2014, have reported to union leaders about staff shortages that “may lead to poor infection control practices that can put patient safety at risk,” according to Debbie White, president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union local. Staff members have urged the center’s administrators to provide enough protective gowns, gloves and masks “to protect patients from cross contamination…which can reduce patients’ exposure to the virus,” she said in a statement.
New Jersey Department of Health investigators found “minor handwashing deficiencies.”
Adenoviruses are common viruses that affect the lining of the airways, intestines, eyes or urinary tract and are responsible for some colds, coughs, sore throats, pinkeye and diarrhea. Usually the illnesses are mild, but “unfortunately, the particular strain of adenovirus in this outbreak is affecting medically fragile children with severely compromised immune systems,” the department said in a statement. “The combination of a worse strain of adenovirus, together with a fragile population, has led to a more severe outbreak.”