Yet another victim of Legionnaires’ disease has file a federal lawsuit against the VA Pittsburgh system in connection with the outbreak that occurred there between February 2011 and November 2012.

Legionnaires Pneumonia

When the 57-year-old Air Force veteran, a resident of Millvale, PA, was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease on September 20, 2010, doctors at the VA’s University Drive facility told him that he had contracted the potentially deadly illness during his vacation to Cancun from September 7-12, 2010.

The plaintiff’s legal team are arguing that he actually contracted legionella during three separate visits to the facility between August 10th and August 30th, when he drank and filled his water bottle from the hospital’s water fountains. These visits were within the two-week incubation period it takes for the legionella pneumonia bacteria to make its victims sick; the veteran first fell ill on September 10th. Our law firm is not representing this plaintiff.

In the 21-month outbreak at the VA’s Oakland and O’Hara campuses, at least 22 patients developed Legionnaires’ disease; 6 people died. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eventually pinpointed the source of the outbreak as being contaminated water systems. More than half of these patients have now filed claims against the government; to date, the VA has settled 13 complaints.

Although this new lawsuit arises from a Legionnaires’ disease infection that occurred six months prior to the outbreak, Pittsburgh’s Tribune Review has acquired VA records that

“… show Legionella bacteria in the water dating to at least 2007. The newspaper revealed that proper water-testing procedures were not followed and that those sickened with Legionella bacteria were not routinely given a urine test that could have detected the disease.” (1)

An investigation of the VA Pittsburgh cases by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that the following discrepancies contributed to the preventable outbreak:

  • Lack of documentation of system monitoring for substantial periods of time;
  • Inconsistent communication and coordination between the Infection Prevention Team and Facility Management Service staff;
  • Failure to conduct routine flushing of hot water faucets and showers;
  • Failure to use appropriate corrective action when there were positive cultures of Legionella;
  • Failure to recognize healthcare-associated cases of Legionnaires’ disease for an extended period of time;
  • Failure to take preventative measures when patients were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

Source:

  1. Bowling, Brian. “Millvale Veteran Sues VA over 2010 Legionella infection.” Tribune Review. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.