Pa. Senator calls for investigation into CDC's handling of VA Legionnaires' outbreak

United States Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa, is calling for a federal inquiry into the CDC's handling of the 2012 Legionnaires' outbreak at Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The call to action comes after the Post-Gazette released a two-part series, published Sunday and Monday, examining email correspondence between CDC officials. The emails were obtained by the publication more than three years after they were requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

During the investigation into the 2012 outbreak, Victor Yu, MD, and Janet Stout, PhD, suggested the Legionella bacteria at play in the outbreak may have developed a resistance to the copper-silver ionization system that was used at the health system for decades. However, the CDC emails obtained by the Post-Gazette reportedly reveal a bias against the two researchers and the notion of resistance.

Reportage from the Post-Gazette suggests CDC officials may have deliberately steered the investigation against the copper-silver system — a technology experts hold varying opinions on. For the agency's 2013 report on the outbreak, CDC investigators found the staff members in charg of maintaining the copper-silver system were not at fault. The CDC then reportedly convinced the VA to switch to a chlorine disinfection system, which the agency favored.

A separate 2013 report conducted by the VA's Office of the Inspector General found the VA's employees to be at fault for not properly maintaining the copper-silver disinfectant system.

"It is of great concern to me and should be to anyone interested in this that there could be bias in the CDC's results in this investigation," said Mr. Casey on Monday, according to the Post-Gazette. "I am going to ask the Inspector General at the CDC how [the CDC] managed this investigation and whether they accurately reported the results in this investigation."

From 2011 to 2012, 22 veterans across the Pittsburgh VA Health System were infected with Legionnaires'. The outbreak resulted in six deaths.

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