According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a recently released CDC report on the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the Pittsburgh VA, along with congressional hearings on the matter have shed light on the magnitude of the problem. According to the CDC report, workers at the Pittsburgh VA made efforts to remediate the water system via superheating and flushing several times starting in January 2011, indicating that it knew about the problem for around 11 months prior to when it told the public, and was unable to eliminate Legionella from the water system. Investigations also revealed that there have been 21 cases associated with the Pittsburgh VA system since January of 2011.
In environmental samples taken by the CDC in November, 2012, 66% of samples were positive for Legionella, showing that the problem was widespread and many parts of the water system were affected. While, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “County and VA standards have long held that hospitals should be concerned when testing finds Legionella in more than 30 percent of samples”, Lauri Hicks of the CDC explained at the hearing that no levels of Legionella are safe.
The Pittsburgh VA outbreak has caused significant outrage, especially due to indications that the VA knew it had a problem but failed to disclose details to physicians, patients, and hospital staff until a large number of people became sick. Hopefully, the national attention as well as attention in Washington will lead to improved and stricter regulations for Legionella in water systems that will prevent future outbreaks.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the country. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates on this story.