In a follow-up on the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, hospital officials tell WKOW in Madison that there have been 14 cases, including three deaths as of Monday.
According to a spokesperson for the hospital, the people who died had other serious, life-threatening conditions that may have contributed to their deaths.
Since reporting cases of Legionnaires’ disease at the University Hospital last month, UW Health continues to monitor the safety of its water system.
The hospital implemented a hyperchlorination process to flush all hot water lines in the building. The chlorination of the water system has worked as anticipated. Testing completed so far has shown the expected reduction in the bacteria.
“We are confident the hyperchlorination worked as expected. An aggressive program of monitoring and screening is in place to ensure the system is functioning as designed. Our commitment to the safety of our patients is unwavering,” said John Marx, UW Health senior infection control practice specialist said last week. “It is important to emphasize Legionnaires’ disease is not spread person to person.”
Legionella bacteria can cause a serious type of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease. The bacteria can also cause a less serious illness called Pontiac fever. Legionnaires’ disease is very similar to other types of pneumonia, with symptoms that include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, and headaches. Less common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and confusion. Symptoms usually begin two to ten days after being exposed to the bacteria, but it can take longer so people should watch for symptoms for about two weeks after exposure.
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. People at increased risk of getting sick are:
- People 50 years or older
- Current or former smokers
- People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
- People with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)
- People with cancer
- People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure
In general, people do not spread the bacteria to other people. Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, and decorative fountains. People get infected when they breathe in a mist or vapor containing the bacteria.Any individual that develops symptoms that could be associated with Legionnaires’ disease should share this information with their health care provider.
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