3 patients die after contracting Legionnaires' disease in Wisconsin hospital

Fourteen patients contracted Legionnaires' disease during an outbreak linked to the water system at UW Health's University Hospital in Madison, Wis., and three of those patients have died, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The three patients who died all had serious, life-limiting health conditions, a hospital spokesperson told the Wisconsin State Journal. Only one patient remains in the hospital for ongoing treatment, and the other 10 have been discharged and are doing well, the spokesperson said.

In late November, UW Health reported several cases of Legionnaires' disease, a type of pneumonia, and linked the outbreak to a change to its hot water system. Lab testing confirmed that the three patients who died had the same strain of Legionella bacteria previously found in the hospital's water system. The other patients could not provide samples for testing, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

After the outbreak was discovered last month, the hospital flushed its hot water system with high levels of chlorine to eliminate the bacteria.

"Testing completed so far continues to show the expected reduction in the bacteria," the hospital said in a press release, according to WISC-TV. "UW Health will continue intensive monitoring of its water system to ensure patient safety."

Legionnaires' is caused by bacteria that are usually present at low concentrations in tap water. People contract Legionnaires' when they inhale droplets of water in the air that contain the Legionella bacteria, according to the CDC.

In 2016, about 6,100 cases of Legionnaires' disease were reported nationwide. Until last month, no cases of the disease had been acquired at UW Hospital in 23 years, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

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