Local man hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease

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JENKINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — There is a case of Legionnaires’ disease in Luzerne County.

It’s a severe form of pneumonia attacking the lungs and for one NEPA man, it’s meant a frightening week in the ICU and he may never be the same.

“Every minute was getting worse and worse until finally, the last thing I remember is they were putting me under,” Louis Campenni said.

On August 30th, 52-year-old delivery driver Louis Campenni says he woke up feeling ill with flu-like symptoms that progressively got worse. In a matter of days, Louis was in the hospital fighting for his life. He tested negative for COVID. Something else was attacking his body.

“I got a call from the doctor at the hospital, South Wilkes-Barre saying my husband was intubated. He had a very high temperature and he couldn’t breathe out,” Louis’s wife Melanie said.

“It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever encountered in my life. You’re suffocating,” Louis said.

Louis’s lungs were filled with fluid and his temperature climbed to 107. He was moved to the ICU at Geisinger Wyoming Valley where doctors found legionella bacteria in his lungs. The bacteria caused a severe form of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease.

Louis woke up after seven days but one in 10 people who contract the disease aren’t so lucky.

“We had a lot of people praying for him. It was a lot,” Melanie said.

“It wasn’t my time yet,” Louis said.

Legionella grows in warm water that is not moving or that does not have enough disinfectant to kill the bacteria. It’s commonly spread when cooling towers, parts of large air conditioning systems, are not properly maintained, causing people to breathe in the bacteria.

Doctors have to report cases of legionella to the local health department, so they can try to determine the source.

“Probably some warehouses that I’ve been to. Not going to name any names but they were a little on the shady side as far as cleanliness, so if they’re not clean, that means they’re not taking care of their maintenance as far as their air systems and stuff like that,” Louis said.

Louis now has to wear an external defibrillator for his weakened heart. Facing a long and difficult road to recovery, the Campennis reached out to an attorney for help.

“He’s probably never going to be able to go back to working as a truck driver. So we need to know where it came from, what caused it,” attorney Will Steppacher with Steppacher Law Firm said.

The Campennis hope that by raising awareness they can identify the source and prevent other people from going through this.

Steppacher says a few more people have contacted him saying they also contracted Legionnaires’ disease.
In June, the Pennsylvania Health Department put out an advisory for a possible rise in legionella because of buildings being closed due to the pandemic.

The Health Department is still investigating where Louis came into contact with the bacteria. Louis says he delivered to warehouses in Hanover Industrial Park, Wilkes-Barre and a couple in Pittston.

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