HAMILTON, NJ -- Following on from a string of Legionnaires' Disease cases that broke out among senior residents at the Alvin E. Gershen Apartments, the Hamilton Board of Health met Tuesday night to discuss what was done to remedy the situation.
Three cases of Legionnaires' Disease have been reported among residents of the Gershen Apartments in the last 13 months officials have said.
When asked how by Council President Jeff Martin who how cases were being handled, Lisa Surtees, chief registered environmental health specialist for the Hamilton Township Health Department said that “the state handles all of that. They have technical support and research scientists that know what to look for.”
Interjecting to give a definitive answer was Township Business Adminstrator David Kenny who confirmed that it is the state’s responsibility.
“It is really a state issue. If someone is diagnosed with Legionnaires' Disease, the physician or hospital must report to the State of New Jersey. The State of New Jersey then reports it to the local board of health. The role of the Health Officer is to follow up on the treatment of the person,” explained Kenny who noted that it is unclear whether or not the sickened individuals contracted the disease from within the apartment building.
Councilwoman Ileana Schirmer made it clear that at no point was the Board of Health notified about the issue by either the state officials or the local health officer. Instead, she said, the council learned of the issue when it was reported on by local news sources. Schirmer went on to highlight an issue with communications and job performance "from a health officer that is facing the potential revocation of his license," an apparent reference to Jeff Plunkett who did not attend the meeting.
Kenny explained that an investigation is automatically triggered when two individuals living at the same location are diagnosed with the illness. He further noted that there are between 250 and 300 reported cases of Legionnaires' Disease in New Jersey each year.
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