UAB Hospital: 2 of 8 patients who tested positive for Legionella - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

UAB Hospital: 2 of 8 patients who tested positive for Legionella bacteria have died

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Health workers are tracking down the source, after eight UAB patients got Legionnaires' disease.

Two people passed away, but there's no confirmation they died from the disease

The CDC, two health departments and UAB are working to find out how people were exposed.

Water restrictions were put in place after UAB Hospital says eight patients in the Women and Infants Center tested positive for Legionella,

It's a bacterium that can cause a severe form of pneumonia known as Legionnaires' disease.

Two of the patients died earlier this month.

But their cause of death has not been determined.

Rebecca Castleberry says "It's scary, I have a baby in the NICU."

The patients affected may have been exposed from water in the Hematology/Oncology unit.

The Chief Patient Safety and Clinical Effectiveness Officer says a water system for that unit only serves floors 5 through 7.

Castelberry says, "They put the temperature of water on 170 degrees last night. They didn't tell us why."

She says she hasn't been told about the situation.

But,  it's a different story for Kayla Roberson, who's on the sixth floor.

"They're just having us take precautions when we use the rest rooms. We can finally take a shower."

Most of the water restrictions have been lifted.

The hospital  installed special filters on shower and faucet heads, flushed the water system and shocked it with extreme temperatures. Patients have been asked to wear masks while flushing the toilet.

Roberson says, "Water and the ice dispenser and anything like that with a mist, they're warning us to stay away from it."

UAB has no knowledge of new infections contracted since the remediation of the water system.

We asked UAB for an interview several times, but no one would go on camera.
The Jefferson County Department of Health is expected to talk to the media Wednesday morning.


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- UAB Hospital in Birmingham says two patients who died recently tested positive for legionella, an infectious disease caused by Legionella bacteria.

A total of eight patients in the hematology-oncology unit at the hospital's Women and Infant building, including the two who died, tested positive for the disease, and it's believed the bacteria originated from the water system on floors five through seven, according to a spokesperson. Water restrictions were placed implemented for the affected area of the hospital late Saturday afternoon, many of which have since been lifted.

"Two patients who were on the unit prior to the remediation of the water system and tested positive for legionella, have died," UAB Hospital said in a release. "The causes of their deaths have not been determined. We only know that in addition to their original illness the patients tested positive for legionella."

No other areas of the hospital were affected.

In an effort to combat the presence of legionella, the hospital flushed the water system, installed special filters on shower and faucet heads and shocked the water with "extreme temperatures."

"We have consulted with public health authorities including local and state departments of health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and implemented these measures pursuant to proposed guidelines of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) commonly followed in the U.S. and referred to by the CDC," Loring Rue, M.D., Chief Patient Safety and Clinical Effectiveness Office at UAB said. "We have no knowledge of new infections contracted after our remediation efforts."

Rue said until the hospital receives the results of tests conducted to confirm the eradication of the bacteria, patients are being asked to wear masks when flushing toilets.

A spokesperson with the Alabama Department of Public Health told ABC 33/40 that the incident is being considered an "outbreak" due to the number of positive tests for the disease i.e. more than two.

The names of the patients who died haven't been released.

ABC 33/40 will continue to follow this story and provide updates as more information is made available.

Notes on Legionella bacteria via a hospital release:

"Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, hot water tanks and large plumbing systems common in office buildings, schools, hotels and hospitals. Most people are exposed to legionella regularly and do not contract legionellosis. People with weak immune systems are more susceptible to legionellosis. According to the CDC, most cases of legionellosis can be treated successfully with antibiotics."


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