Potential Legionella outbreak probed at Hawaii hospital

The Hawaii Department of Health is investigating a potential Legionella outbreak at the Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu after one patient died from Legionnaires' disease and several others were hospitalized with the same condition, KHON reports.

The patient died in May after being hospitalized with pneumonialike symptoms, according to hospital officials. The patient may have had an underlying condition.

"The patient had symptoms of pneumonia at the time of admission," said Erlaine Bello, MD, medical director of the hospital's infection control department. "They presumably got the infection before they arrived in the hospital."

A total of four patients with Legionnaires' disease were recently hospitalized at the medical center.

Although physicians said they believe the patient who died and another patient who has been released were exposed to Legionella outside the hospital, the state health department began investigating Queen's Medical Center after learning two other patients were already hospitalized when they began showing symptoms.

To test for Legionella growth, officials took water samples at the hospital June 19. Queen's is not allowing high-risk patients with weakened immune systems, including cancer and transplant patients, to take showers or flush the toilet. As a safety precaution, the hospital is only allowing these patients to drink bottled water and is replacing all of its faucets.

"This is not cause for alarm or panic. We certainly are not thinking at all about evacuating people from the hospital," Dr. Bello said.

The Hawaii Nurses' Association is working with the hospital to address concerns surrounding a potential outbreak, Maureen Meehan-Golonka, RN, president of the Hawaii Nurses' Association, said in a statement obtained by KHON.

"The Hawaii Nurses' Association is working closely with QMC to address the Legionella outbreak concerns, especially as they relate to our nurses' safety, and patients' safety," Ms. Meehan-Golonka wrote. "QMC has provided HNA with information on the precautionary measures taken to protect fragile patients and steps taken by nurses to mitigate risks.”

Ms. Meehan-Golonka said the nurses union would actively monitor the situation.

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