Deadly bacteria source sought in hospital water

November 04, 1999|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

A case of Legionnaire's disease diagnosed Monday night at Union Memorial Hospital prompted officials to purge the hospital's water system yesterday and search for the source of the bacteria.

The patient, who officials would not identify, was being treated in the hospital's intensive care unit yesterday. The person apparently picked up the bacterial infection while being treated at the hospital, according to Wayne Campbell, chief of infectious diseases at the North Baltimore institution.

Campbell said that physicians found no evidence that anyone else in the hospital has been affected.

State health investigators have tested potential sources of the bacteria and will return again tomorrow to repeat their tests to make sure the entire water system is uninfected. The tests are expected to last about 10 days.

All patients, staff and physicians at the hospital were notified of the discovery yesterday. Until the problem is fully resolved, they were told, patients would use bottled water for drinking and tooth brushing and be limited to basin baths rather than using showers or tubs.

As a further precaution, water at Union Memorial was heated to 160 degrees yesterday before the system was flushed with it.

Legionnaire's disease is an acute bacterial infectious disease that usually originates in showers, air conditioning cooling towers and hot water tanks. It is not passed by direct human contact but is transmitted by airborne water.

Hospital officials said they last conducted a regularly scheduled test for Legionnella in July and found no evidence of the bacteria.

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