11 patients diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease at UW Hospital

Hot water system treated for bacteria
11 patients diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease at UW Hospital

Eleven UW Hospital patients have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease after UW Health announced that the hot water system could have put patients at risk.

Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia, is caused by bacteria that are typically present at low concentrations in tap water.

The hospital used a hyperchlorination process to flush all of the hot water lines in the building. Tests have shown the process was effective, and there is a reduction in the bacteria. The hospital is continuing to monitor bacteria levels.

“An aggressive program of monitoring and screening is in place to ensure the system is functioning as designed. Our commitment to the safety of our patients is unwavering,” said John Marx, UW Health senior infection control practice specialist. “It is important to emphasize Legionnaires’ disease is not spread person to person.”

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease can be present for up to 14 days after exposure, but typical onset is within about six days.

In total, the hospital has identified 11 cases of patients developing the pneumonia, according to a news release from UW Health Friday. Four of those patients are being treated at UW Hospital, and six have either been discharged or are being treated at outpatient facilities. One person, who had been hospitalized for serious health conditions, died last week.

UW Health is working closely with the Wisconsin Division of Public Health for support in additional testing efforts. Hospital officials have also asked the Centers for Disease Control to serve as an additional independent verification safety system.

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