Legionnaires' Disease Discovery Leads To Water Restrictions In Pittsburgh Veteran Affairs Hospital


A veterans affairs hospital in Pittsburgh is currently under water restriction after the discovery of Legionella bacteria in many areas of the facility. The bacteria causes Legionnaires' disease.

This is not the first time that the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System is coping with Legionnaires' disease outbreak. In 2011 and 2012, at least six patients died because of Legionnaires' disease and 22 fell sick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionellosis is a respiratory disease caused by the Legionella bacteria. The bacteria causes a type of pneumonia, a lung infection commonly called the Legionnaires' disease. Pontiac fever, a less serious infection that has symptoms of a mild flu infection, can also be caused by the bacteria.

Water Restrictions Implemented

The bacteria was disovered in the University Drive hospital of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System in Oakland during routine water testing. The findings immediately prompted the authorities to implement water restrictions.

Water samples from five sinks located in an unoccupied administrative unit tested positive for Legionella bacteria on Jan. 6. The result followed the discovery of the same bacteria in two other water samples from adjacent sinks on Jan. 15.

"Water restrictions have been enacted for a significant portion of the University Drive hospital, including patient-care areas. At this time, there are no cases of hospital-acquired Legionnaires' disease," said Michael Marcus, spokesperson for the hospital.

Water from the hospital will not be used for drinking, making ice, washing hands, bathing, or showering per the rules of restriction. The affected areas where the restrictions have been implemented are provided with bagged ice and bottled water. Portable hand washing stations are currently used in the hospital during the entire period of restriction.

The water restrictions are implemented for 14 days. During this time period, the hospital administration will conduct remediation work to eradicate the bacteria from the affected areas.

The hospital's director of infection protection, Brooke Decker said that employees and patients of the hospital were notified by the authorities about this development. They also posted signs in the affected areas for further caution.

Fast Facts On Legionnaires' Disease

Legionella bacteria is usually found in freshwater. It becomes a matter of concern when the bacteria starts festering in man-made water systems like undrained hot tubs, showers, faucets, hot water tanks, and heater and large plumbing systems. The bacteria grows best in warm water.

An estimated 5,000 cases of Legionnaires' disease is reported in the United States annually and according to the CDC, one in 10 people infected with Legionnaires' disease succumbs to death. The disease is basically not contagious but can be communicable in rare cases.

Pontiac fever and Legionnaires' disease can be contracted if people breathe in minute water droplets containing Legionella bacteria.

Photo: Joe Pell | Flickr 

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