Legionella bacteria at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Presbyterian have contributed to three Legionnaires’ disease cases, one of the three patients died from their illness. The potentially deadly bacteria were found in the ice machines at UPMC Presbyterian and health officials are saying Legionnaires’ disease in patients who aspirate ice chips is highly unusual.
This discovery prompted a massive sterilization of 500 ice machines at UPMC’s 20 hospitals. According to officials, machines testing positive for Legionella are being removed; all others are being sterilized and fitted for filters.
After a patient tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease, hospital workers tested the water system, but results were negative for Legionella bacteria. It was later revealed that the patient was restricted to eating ice chips and aspirated a chip which caused bacteria to enter the lungs causing pneumonia.
“When we realized that clinical connection, we said , ‘Ahh, the ice machines!’ and we went and tested the ice machines, and we found Legionella,” said Tami Minnier, the chief quality officer at UPMC.
It was found that Legionella was in less than 20 percent of ice machines at UPMC Presbyterian.
“We discovered that Legionella can grow in ice machines to a degree that we previously hadn’t thought of,” Minnier said.
Following the discovery of Legionella, UPMC officials notified the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Allegheny County Health Department, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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