The Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Alabama is one of the few veterans’ hospitals in the US that have a kidney transplant program. This program, however, is currently on hold after Legionella bacteria were discovered at the facility.
So far, no patients have contracted Legionnaires’ disease due to bacterial exposure; therefore, the VA did not report it to the state health department. Birmingham VA did, however, take steps to eradicate the waterborne bacteria from their water system. Filters were also installed in areas with high risk patients.
Those most at risk for contracting Legionnaires’ disease include those who are immunosuppressed, smokers, the elderly, and young children.
VA officials also decided to install a chlorine injection system to constantly pump chlorine through the water system and keep Legionella bacteria at bay.
The Birmingham VA’s precautionary decisions are wise considering the devastating Legionnaires’ disease outbreak of 2011-2012 at the Pittsburgh VA. It is hoped that all hospitals and other large facilities will take similar, if not stronger, preemptive action in order to prevent unnecessary illness and death.