Published on: 06-Jan- 2012 | Comments: 1
What would a recent party at the Playboy Mansion in 2011, a gathering in 2002 at an arts center in the United Kingdom, and a Legionnaires’ convention that took place more than 30 years ago in Philadelphia have in common? No, not the same menu, activities or décor—but one common uninvited guest: the bacterium Legionella pneumophilia, which caused illness and, in some cases, death.
How Does Legionella Manifest and Spread?
Legionella pneumophilia causes what has now come to have been called Legionnaires’ disease. Victims are typically infected through inhalation of very small (aerosol) particles containing the bacteria. These particles can originate from any water source that has been infected, including cooling waters, large plumbing systems, air conditioning systems, evaporative coolers, nebulizers, humidifiers, whirlpools, hot water systems, showers, room-air humidifiers, ice making misting equipment, and even windshield washers. Legionella has been found both in people that were very close to infected water sources and others that were miles away—one of the reasons why investigating the source and pathway of an infected population is often so difficult.
The most common cause of a Legionella outbreak has been found to be a lack of maintenance of a facility’s water system. The potential for transmission of the disease is greatest in areas of high population or where large amounts of people congregate.
According to the New York City Department of Health, between 8,000 and 18,000 people report developing legionnaire’s disease in the United States annually, with more infections not being reported because of mild symptoms. A recent rash of legionnaire’s disease in a number of states has been linked to stagnant water in cooling towers.
Environmental Insurance Solutions
Environmental insurers now have products that will respond to claims against real estate entities for exposure to the Legionella bacterium. Clients often believe that their companies will be protected against these types of claims under their general liability or property policies or by water system maintenance plans that they have instituted. However, in Marsh’s experience, standard insurance policies and water system maintenance plans may not be enough to respond to Legionella claims against real estate clients.
Due to the current highly competitive marketplace for environmental insurance, it is now possible to obtain coverage for Legionella claims, including coverage for investigation, cleanup and restoration costs. These policies can offer additional protection against third party bodily injury, property damage claims, and business interruption.
Monday, June 18, 2012 3:35 PM
I wonder how many more will report symptoms if they were more widely known. As information like this is spread, we may see more and more claims filed.
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