Ice maker, sinks linked to UW Medical Center Legionnaires' outbreak; 2 dead

After extensive testing throughout University of Washington Medical Center, the source of a Legionnaires' disease outbreak was located in the Seattle-based hospital Tuesday evening, according to the Seattle Times, but not before a second patient with the infection died.

The hospital started searching for the source of the infections after two patients tested positive for Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease. One of those patients died Sept. 8.

Now, a third patient has been linked to the Legionnaires' disease outbreak. This patient died Aug. 27, but the connection to Legionella was not made until the autopsy, according to a Public Health-Seattle & King County blog post. The bacteria may have contributed to this patient's death.

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The subsequent investigation revealed Legionella bacteria was dwelling in an ice machine and two sinks in UW Medical Center's cardiac unit in its Cascade tower. Patients, visitors and staff have been instructed to not use drinking fountains on the unit, and the hospital shipped in bottled water to use in the interim. The water system could be off-limits for at least two weeks, according to the Seattle Times.

In addition to testing the water supply to find the outbreak's source, UW Medical Center tested patients in the cardiac unit who had symptoms of respiratory problems to see if they were infected also. Of 15 patients they tested, none had Legionella infections, according to the Seattle Times.

Public Health-Seattle & King County noted it "can't predict if additional cases will be identified at UWMC, but it is possible because of exposures that happened at the hospital before the Legionella was identified and protective actions were put in place."

Editor's note: The headline of this story was updated Thursday at 3:30 p.m. to clarify that while Legionnaires' disease may have contributed to two patient's deaths, it has not been determined to be the cause of those deaths.

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