Health officials warn hospitals to do more to prevent Legionnaire’s disease

Health officials warn hospitals to do more to prevent Legionnaire’s disease

Source: Watertown Daily Times (NY), June 12, 2017
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Health officials last week warned of the lurking dangers that Legionnaires’ disease can pose to the water systems of hospitals and other health care facilities.

In a recent report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed more than 2,800 cases of Legionnaires’ disease from 2015.

Legionnaires’ is a severe form of bacterial pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria. Legionella bacteria is natural to freshwater environments, but grows best in warm water and can cause problems when it spreads to utilities such as showers, faucets, air conditioners and hot water tanks.

To infect people, it must be aerated or spread in droplets small enough to be inhaled.

The CDC found 553 of those cases in 2015 occurred in healthcare facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes, where those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to contracting it.

“(Legionnaires’) can be very serious and deadly to elderly populations,” said Barbara Fargo, director of nursing at Samaritan Summit Village assisted living center in Watertown. “It’s important that we ensure we don’t give it to any patient.”

In May, a routine water test at Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, returned a positive result for the Legionella bacteria.

After work was done to replace all valves in the oldest part of the building and to flush water lines daily, Samaritan spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle said, a second round of testing found no reportable levels of the bacteria in early June.

No related cases of Legionnaires’ were reported by Samaritan or the Jefferson County Public Health Service.

One quarter of the number of patients who contract Legionnaire’s in a health care facility die from the disease, according to the CDC.

Ms. Fargo said the Watertown nursing home goes through frequent, mandatory testing, and long-term care facilities have a Legionella prevention system in place; she noted that there hasn’t been a single case of the disease at Summit Village since she began working there more than three years ago.

One way in which the nursing home prevents Legionnaires’ is by cleaning all the nebulizers — or respiratory treatment masks — with sterile water or saline rather than tap water.


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