According to news reports on Friday, four patients at Pittsburgh Veterans Hospital in Oakland acquired Legionnaires’ disease. High levels of Legionella were discovered upon investigation of the hospital’s water system. A statement released by the hospital states, “After a collaborative review with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the recent cases and its potable water supply, VA Pittsburgh has determined that an elevated concentration of the organism was present.”
The hospital already has a Copper-silver ionization system in place, which is a system meant to eliminate bacteria such as Legionella. However, the system may have not been working effectively when the outbreak occurred. Officials are working to remedy the situation by using other disinfection methods such as super-chlorination.
Hospitals are often the sites of Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks. This is due to a variety of factors including the combination of a vulnerable population (people with weakened immune systems) and a large-scale water supply that can be compromised. With a building susceptible to Legionella and people who are more susceptible to acquiring Legionnaires’ disease, the chances of an outbreak increase.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the country. He is currently litigating a case involving a hospital outbreak in Ohio.