There are now five cases of Legionnaires’ disease associated with the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s University Drive Hospital. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the building’s copper-silver ionization—a system put in place to kill Legionella–was not working properly several months ago. VA officials knew about the problem in June and called a consultant to analyze the problem and recommend next steps. Enrich products, the consultant who was contacted, advised that the VA adjust the copper-silver levels in the system. However, the VA did not request that Enrich make those adjustments until October, meaning that the water system could have been at risk for Legionella propagation for several months during the summer and early fall.
Coincidentally, the Pittsburgh VA Hospital is the former home of Victor Yu and Janet Stout, two of the foremost researchers on Legionnaires’ disease. Yu and Stout made the connection between Legionnaires’ disease and water systems in 1982. The copper-silver ionization system at the VA Hospital was originally installed in 1993 by Stout and Yu. Dr. Stout, who was critical of the recent management of the system, said “The system wasn’t performing optimally because it wasn’t being managed properly. I don’t take it lightly that veterans at the VA have been harmed needlessly. It’s very preventable”.
It is unfortunate that this outbreak occurred and people became sick, especially considering that proper management could have prevented this situation. Instead, the outbreak has sickened five people and has led to criticisms from some of the leading Legionnaires’ disease researchers in the world, members of the healthcare community who worked at the very hospital where the outbreak occurred.
Jules Zacher has worked on Legionnaires’ disease cases across the country and is currently litigating a case against a hospital in Ohio. Explore the rest of the website for more information.