Hervey Bay Hospital has implemented water quality safety measures as a result of positive test results for Legionella in its water supply.

The hospital conducts regular checks on its water supply.

This image shows Legionella colonies growing on a Petri dish. Image/Otto Schwake
This image shows Legionella colonies growing on a Petri dish.
Image/Otto Schwake

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service (HHS) Chief Executive Adrian Pennington said they have a rigorous testing process of our water in hospitals and when they have a positive result they err on the side of caution.

As a result, they have begun a process to ensure the complete safety of patients and staff.

As part of that process, patients now will receive sponge baths in all areas of the Hervey Bay Hospital, tap water will not be used for invasive procedures and bottled drinking water will be provided for patients.

“It follows that there will be some inconvenience while we wait for results from the second round of testing but water quality is one of our highest priorities,’’ Mr Pennington said.

A team comprising public health, environmental health, and building and maintenance staff from the Wide Bay HHS are currently undertaking testing of water systems across multiple sites within the Hervey Bay hospital.

Wide Bay HHS will also examine existing maintenance and monitoring programs.

Wide Bay HHS public health physician Dr Margaret Young said Legionnaire’s disease can only be caught through inhaling the Legionella bacteria so there is a very low risk of hospital acquired infection.

Legionnaires disease is a severe bacterial pneumonia characterized by fever, cough, and muscle aches. Treatment required antibiotics and usually hospital admission. In 2014 there were 45 cases of Legionnaires disease in Queensland.

Transmission is through inhalation of contaminated air. Person-to-person transmission does not occur. The incubation period for Legionnaires’ disease is typically five to six days, but can be up to 10 days.

Dr Young said Legionella bacteria was common in the environment. They can be found in air-conditioning cooling towers, hot or warm water systems, showerheads, spa baths, creeks, soil and potting mix.