Legislation mandating that hospitals conduct routine tests for Legionella has paid off in Australia, where a Queensland hospital caught the bacteria in its water supply before patients were infected.
A deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2013 prompted lawmakers to require that hospitals perform regular tests for Legionella. As a result of such tests, the Cunnamulla Hospital in southwestern Queensland reported last week that its water system contained Legionella bacteria. Hospital officials responded by chlorinating the water system, replacing water fixtures, and retesting the water supply.
Thanks to the mandatory tests and the quick action of the hospital officials, no illnesses have been reported. Hospitals and assisted-living facilities are at particular risk of Legionella contaminatino for several reasons. Large buildings with complex water systems allow the bacteria many opportunities to grow and spread, and the source of an outbreak can be difficult to pinpoint. In the absence of frequent testing, bacteria can appear anywhere from showers and pools to drinking fountains and ice machines. In addition, patients and the elderly are groups at highest risk for Legionnaires’ disease, which is especially deadly for those with compromised immune systems.
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