Legionnaire’s outbreak at Portland senior housing kills 1, sickens at least 8

By Kristian Foden-Vencil (OPB)
Jan. 6, 2021 11:44 p.m.

The bacteria occurs in water and can cause severe pneumonia.

People continue to fall sick from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at a Portland senior citizen housing complex.

Eight residents of the Rosemont Court apartment complex are now suffering from symptoms, and one person has died.


Multnomah County has moved scores of people out of the facility since Monday, when the outbreak was first identified.

The complex is run by Northwest Housing Alternatives and is home to about 100 seniors. Dr. Jennifer Vines, the county health officer, said a handful of residents remain on-site, and the evacuation is voluntary.


“We have found motels as close to the apartment building as possible,” she said. “And we are putting people in rooms and making sure they have food and that their other needs are met.”

Legionnaires’ is caused by bacteria that can live in a building’s plumbing system. People get sick with pneumonia when they inhale the bacteria in water droplets, such as in a shower, off a faucet or even from a decorative fountain.

Vines said the county is working on a timeline of about one or two weeks to return people home. That gives authorities time to kill the bacteria in the plumbing system by running bleach through the pipes.

It can take two days to two weeks for an infected individual to display Legionnaires’ symptoms, so Multnomah County is keeping an eye on every resident.

The county gets about one or two cases of Legionnaires’ disease every month. But Vines said an outbreak of this scale is rare, “This is my first time addressing a legionella outbreak after over a decade of experience as a public health officer,” she said.

The legionella bacteria occurs naturally in freshwater. Most people exposed to it don’t get sick. But about 5% can contract severe pneumonia. Symptoms include headaches, fever, a cough, fatigue and muscle aches. Elderly people and those with chronic diseases are at a higher risk.