PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A sixth death from legionella bacteria — possibly linked to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Pittsburgh — has prompted U.S. Sen. Bob Casey to call on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to re-examine all cases of legionnaire’s disease in the Pittsburgh area.
“It’s important that people throughout southwestern Pennsylvania, especially veterans and their families, know that every aspect of this tragedy has been looked at,” Casey told KDKA’s Jon Delano.
Casey and others suspect that some cases and deaths may have been mis-classified — that is, attributed by CDC as community-acquired legionella instead of VA hospital-acquired legionella.
“If it was community-acquired, then the VA would claim that they should not bear any responsibility for that,” said Dr. Victor Yu of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Dr. Yu, whose whistle-blowing in this case exposed the VA problem, said the CDC used calculations that minimized VA responsibility.
“Those patients in that grey area were shifted into community-acquired,” he said.
Yu says he’s not surprised by these new developments.
“Most of us had surmised that the cases the VA was admitting to still were the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “So the fact that there was a sixth case wasn’t surprising.”
So could this possible sixth death from legionella at the VA hospital be the last? Casey is skeptical.
“I have some real questions and question marks about whether it is sixth and that it is the last one,” said Casey.