PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The investigation into Legionnaire’s disease at Pittsburgh’s VA Hospital is widening.

Officials at the VA say the water at University Drive Hospital is now clear of Legionella and that water use is back to normal. But the VA also says since last year, January of 2011, there have been 29 cases of Legionnaire’s disease diagnosed at VA facilities here.

The VA says five got the disease in the hospital, eight in the community and 16 from undetermined locations.

“Well, the hugest red flag is that somebody died from this, from an infection that is completely preventable,” said Dr. Victor Yu, of the Special Pathogens Lab.

John McChesney, of the Erie area, died last month.

His wife told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that she believes he may have contracted Legionnaire’s disease from the water system at the VA Hospital in Oakland.

“I think administrators at the Pittsburgh VA, like bureaucrats elsewhere, are sometimes not transparent,” said Dr. Yu. “I think a typical comment from a VA official is, ‘We can’t tell you.’”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has been called in to assist in this investigation, but they make it clear, they are assisting. The VA is taking the lead.

Although water restrictions have been lifted in Oakland, the VA says restrictions still exist at the Aspinwall site. There’s no elaboration on that.

“The majority of people are exposed to Legionaella bacteria all the time and the risk of illness is really generally low, but for people in the hospital, that have other health conditions, the risk is much higher,” said Dr. Janet Stout, also of the Special Pathogens Lab. “That’s why we have to protect them.”

And that’s why there are new questions about the water systems at the VA systems from a preventive and reactive perspective.

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