Indiana man recovering from rare Legionnaires’ disease

Ryan Alma was hospitalized after testing positive for Legionnaires’ disease.

BURNETTSVILLE, Ind. (WLFI) – A White County man is recovering from Legionnaires’ disease. It’s the same rare disease that has recently killed 10 people in New York City.

“They told my wife, we’re down to a coin toss. He’s either making it or he won’t, we’re not sure yet,” explained Ryan Alma.

Alma is a husband, father and the assistant fire chief of the Burnettsville Fire Department. He said July 12 began as a normal day. But things suddenly took a turn for the worse.

“I took a shower and when I came out of the shower, I was tired. But I was just freezing to death. I went in and I laid in bed and I just kept shivering,” said Alma.

Ryan Alma was hospitalized after testing positive for Legionnaires’ disease.
Ryan Alma was hospitalized after testing positive for Legionnaires’ disease.

A week later, he ended up in the intensive care unit at IU Health Arnett Hospital in Lafayette with a positive test for Legionnaires’ disease. The bacterial disease can be contracted by inhaling water contaminated with the bacteria.

Alma is still unsure how he got it.

“The White County CDC, along with the Indiana State CDC, has come to our house. They’ve taken samples from our well water. We have a swimming pool, hot tub, they’ve taken samples from all of that. They went to our fire station and checked the water supply at our fire station and everything has come back negative,” said Alma.

State health officials said it does not spread from person to person.  While they could not comment specifically on Alma’s case, they told our sister station in Lafayette there were 129 confirmed cases last year in Indiana.

“Legionella bacteria is found in warm, fresh water environments, so it’s not something that’s surprising. We do anticipate to see a baseline amount every year in the state, so this isn’t unusual for us to see,” said Reema Patel, a respiratory epidemiologist.

Health officials said Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics, but can pose a serious risk to anyone with an underlying medical condition.

On a national level, 10 people have recently died in New York City. Cooling towers at five buildings tested positive for Legionella bacteria.

Locally, Alma is thankful he pulled through. Shortly after his 11-day stay at the hospital, his wife was in a serious car crash. So now, they’re both on the road to recovery.

“There’s nothing more humbling than when you get in that situation and you realize how many people care for you,” said Alma.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family.

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