PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – The bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease was found in ice machines at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s flagship hospital, where officials say one patient died and two were sickened by the bug last year.
Tami Minnier, the hospital chain’s chief quality officer, tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that UPMC Presbyterian officials were stumped initially when tests of the hospital’s water system were negative for Legionella.
But officials reviewed the dead patient’s medical records and found he had been restricted to eating ice chips and aspirated – meaning he inhaled a chip into his lung.
The bacteria can cause a severe form of pneumonia, but are typically known to thrive in warm water.
Minnier says the sicknesses showed the bacteria can grow in ice machines, too, which UPMC replaced, overhauled, and sterilized as a result.
Investigations were also launched into the Pittsburgh VA, after 22 people were affected by a Legionella outbreak, six of whom died.
In March, it was reported that internal reviews showed human error was to blame for the outbreak. Documents showed that employees knew there was a problem, but ignored it for a year.
The hospital is now cleared of the outbreak, but local officials are seeking reprimand.
UPMC released this statement on the incident:
“We are sharing our recent Legionella findings with the hospital community. Through the diligent efforts of our clinical, infection control and facilities staff, we have found that Legionella bacteria can grow in ice machines more readily than was previously believed possible. That is why we are developing a rigorous process for sanitizing and monitoring machines in clinical areas-and sharing what we have learned with the broader health care community. With the safety and health of our patients as our top priority, UPMC has been a leader in Legionella prevention and monitoring and will continue to build on our already successful practices.”
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