Sen. Casey Weighs In On Legionnaire’s Disease Issues At VA Hospital

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The ongoing problem of Legionnaire’s disease at the VA Hospital in Pittsburgh’s Oakland section has caught the attention of a U.S. Senator.

Sen. Bob Casey says he wants answers after at least five patients have been treated for the pneumonia-like infection.

And now, some local experts say it could have been prevented.

“First of all, you’d never think that in 2012 we would have a problem arise that we first heard in 1976, Legionnaires disease – heard about at the time in Philadelphia – but that’s unusual because of that,” said Sen. Casey. “And because the concern that I have for the veterans and their families, I wanted to make sure that Secretary Shinseki heard directly from me about the urgency of finding out what happened here and why it happened.”

Sen. Casey asked the Veterans Affairs administration to look into why the water system at the VA Hospital became contaminated with the pneumonia-like disease Nov. 15.

Because of the incubation period, the hospital is still using bottled water.

The hospital will only say it stands by its news release earlier this month indicating it has turned to chlorination to flush the system.

But Dr. Janet Stout and Dr. Victor Yu, who developed a copper-silver purification system for the hospital in 1993, say they think the hospital hasn’t managed it properly.

“Regardless of the disinfection system, the institution has to make a commitment to staff it, to monitor it and to operate it properly,” said Dr. Stout, of the Special Pathogens Lab. “And apparently, that’s not what happened at the VA in Pittsburgh.”

“When we were there from the late-80s to 2006, when we left we never had four cases in a few months, we didn’t have four cases in a few years,” added Dr. Yu, also of the Special Pathogens Lab.

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