The City of Greenfield’s Health Department has received five confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease between June 19 and Aug. 8, after having just one case reported in each of the previous two years, according to Health Director Darren Rausch.
One of this year’s confirmed cases is that of Ken Luedke, a 56-year-old retire from the 128th Air Refueling Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard, who died Friday at St. Luke’s Hospital.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner has not yet confirmed the cause of Luedke’s death is the mysterious form of pneumonia that is particularly hard on smokers and those with underlying health conditions.
Rausch said in an email final confirmation of the cause of death could take days or even weeks.
Rausch said the average age of the confirmed 2013 cases in Greenfield is 56 years, with a range of 41-65 years. At least two of these cases were current smokers.
Since June 1, there has been a larger legionella cluster within Milwaukee County representing 48 total cases, with 31 in the City of Milwaukee alone, according to Rausch. Legionella cases are typically seen through the fall, but at a much lower rate (approximately 20 countywide each year).
The Centers for Disease Control estimate that the death rate for legionella cases is between 5-30 percent for those hospitalized.
An on-going investigation is occurring within the health departments in Milwaukee County, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, and the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, Rausch said. The investigation does not indicate a single source for this illness, which further complicates the control and containment of disease.
The currently accepted theory is that multiple cooling towers in and around downtown Milwaukee are the source of the legionella bacteria, according to Rausch.