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Legionnaires’ outbreak persists at North Portland senior apartment complex

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 15, 2021

Dozens of residents were evacuated from Rosemont Court apartments in North Portland after one died of Legionnaire’s disease.  (Therese Bottomly/Oregonian)
Dozens of residents were evacuated from Rosemont Court apartments in North Portland after one died of Legionnaire’s disease. (Therese Bottomly/Oregonian)
By Jayati Ramakrishnan Oregonian

A North Portland senior apartment complex had a new case of Legionnaires’ disease in late September, the Multnomah County Health Department has confirmed. The case is the latest in a series of infections attributed to the waterborne illness since January.

The outbreak at Rosemont Court, an affordable housing complex for people aged 55 and older, has resulted in 10 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’, including one death, and four presumptive cases.

In January, the county confirmed that there was an outbreak at the North Dekum Street building that had killed one and hospitalized three others. About 100 residents left the building while the county shut off the water and disinfected the system.

While residents returned to the building in early February, residents of the apartment complex have continued to contract the disease caused by the bacteria Legionella, which lives in water and is spread when humans breathe small droplets containing the bacteria.

While the company that manages the building, Northwest Housing Alternatives, has offered to permanently relocate some of the residents, many have struggled to find affordable housing elsewhere, according to an OPB report.

Multnomah County spokesperson Julie Sullivan-Springhetti said the county has worked with Legionella experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who have said that it’s not uncommon for Legionnaires’ cases to linger even after a water system has been disinfected.

Sullivan-Springhetti said the county supports Northwest Housing Alternatives’ offers to relocate residents.

“The most recent case suggests there is still some risk to Rosemont Court residents, but it’s hard to quantify,” she said. “We are working with them on multiple fronts, with an understanding that there are other consequences to moving people out of an established community, as well as challenges to find affordable housing.”

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