PHELPS COUNTY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is investigating four recent cases of Legionnaires’ disease that may be linked to a Rolla hospital.

The first case occurred in May 2021 with a person who had been hospitalized at Phelps Health in Rolla. DHSS is advising area healthcare providers and the public of a potential health concern for individuals that may have been in contact with a water source within the hospital.

Phelps Health President and CEO Jason Shenefield said the hospital is working with its water monitoring company to test and survey its water system.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people typically cannot spread Legionnaires’ disease to one another, although it does occur on rare occasions.

The most common way to contract Legionnaires is through inhaling water droplets containing the Legionella bacterium. You can develop flu-like symptoms, which usually appear within two to 10 days of exposure.

Legionella grows and spreads in building water systems such as:

  • Showerheads and sink faucets
  • Cooling towers (structures that contain water and a fan as part of centralized air-cooling systems for building or industrial processes)
  • Hot tubs that aren’t drained after each use
  • Decorative fountains and water features
  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Large plumbing systems

Those most at risk are people who are 50 years or older, smoke cigarettes, or have certain medical conditions, such as a weakened immune system.