There has been a lot of secrecy and unanswered questions surrounding a Legionella outbreak at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, NY as detailed in a report by James Mulder at Syracuse.com.
What have we learned since Mulder’s report?
Kathryn Ruscitto, President & CEO, St. Joseph released the following statement Wednesday:
“Over the past several days, St. Joseph’s has taken aggressive and comprehensive steps to identify and address potential Legionella bacteria in its water system. Even as we continue to wait for definitive test results, we have taken actions that far exceeded the NYS Department of Health recommendations, worked with our other system partners in Trinity Health to review all best practices, and retained a national expert to ensure we are doing everything possible to ensure the health and safety of our patients, visitors and staff. We have installed highly-engineered filters to remove possible contaminants, including bacteria, in patient areas to further ensure their safety even as we continue to learn the full facts. As a result of our work, we have taken action to ensure that patients, staff and visitors are and will remain safe while we continue to analyze how the Legionella bacteria may have become present in our water system. There have been no new cases of hospital acquired Legionella in the hospital in the last three weeks.
This is an extremely complex situation. Except for patient privacy matters, we have not withheld information from reporters or any other audiences who have contacted us. We have communicated with our affected patients and they have asked us to maintain the privacy of their information.
Our decision to defer on-camera interviews was made so that we would have the time needed to analyze the situation fully before having those interviews. We will be granting those on-camera interviews in the coming days.
Our primary focus is on patient care – which remains our number one priority.
We will continue to provide proactive information and updates in the days ahead. We will share all that we learn; and hope others will learn from our experience.”
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by the bacteria Legionella. Additional symptoms include: headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear two to 10 days after significant exposure to Legionella bacteria. Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth, such as whirlpool spas, hot tubs, humidifiers, hot water tanks, cooling towers, and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems.
Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person. Groups at high risk for Legionnaire’s disease include people who are middle-aged or older – especially cigarette smokers – people with chronic lung disease or weakened immune systems and people who take medicines that weaken their immune systems (immunosuppressive drugs).