Five patients of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System contracted Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia, at the University Drive campus hospital. According to VA Pittsburgh, the hospital’s water system became contaminated with elevated levels of Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s, also referred to as Legionella pneumonia. The CDC was called in to help with the outbreak investigation and confirmed that the water supply was contaminated.
The hospital has not closed down, but continues to run as normal as the VA works to decontaminate the water system. The VA said bottled water is being used for drinking, and for hand washing hand sanitizers and bottled water are being used.
Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease usually begin 2 to 14 days after inhaling Legionella and can include the following:
- High fever
- Cough (may bring up mucus and blood)
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle aches
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
Veterans rely on the VA to provide high-quality health care in a safe environment. Many of these men and women are elderly, smokers and people with weakened immune systems, the very people who are most at risk for contracting life threatening cases of Legionella pneumonia.