Officials at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, WA have investigated possible sources of Legionella bacteria. Three cases of Legionnaires’ disease, two of them fatal, have been associated with the hospital within the last month. Legionella has been found in ice makers and sinks in the hospital’s cardiac unit.
On August 26, the hospital learned that a 30-year-old woman had contracted the disease; she has since been discharged and is recovering at home. A 50-year-old man was reported to have the disease on September 6. He died in the hospital on Thursday. This week, an autopsy linked the August 27 death of a third patient was linked to Legionnaires’ disease. Hospital officials have clarified that, while Legionnaires’ disease may have contributed to the death of the two patients, it has not been listed as the cause of death in either case.
Both patients had been treated in the UWMC cardiac unit. It was initially considered possible that the patient who is now recovering was exposed to Legionella outside of the hospital, but the first victim had not left the cardiac unit during the incubation period of the disease. Investigators conducted extensive tests on possible source locations within the hospital, including showers, sinks, and operating-room equipment. The hospital also began testing patients who were exhibiting symptoms that could result from Legionnaires’ disease, as the disease is sometimes mistaken for pneumonia and undiagnosed. None of the 15 patients who underwent precautionary testing had Legionnaires’ disease.
The hospital has begun issuing bottled water to patients and has restricted use of the water fountains and infected areas of the cardiac unit. The water system could take at least two weeks to be fully functional. Officials have also notified patients of the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and provided information about the disease.
UWMC was fined in 2015 when the Department of Labor and Industries found low levels of Legionella bacteria in its cooling towers. Since then, officials have performed quarterly tests on the cooling towers. The cooling towers were not implicated in the current outbreak.
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Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.