LAWRENCEVILLE (KDKA) – When a female resident at York Commons was diagnosed last month with pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria, county officials tested a water sample from the a senior citizens’ high-rise in Lawrenceville. The results forced them into action.

“Friday late in the day, we were made aware that there was a positive result and took immediate action to begin remediation and to communicate with the residents,” Lisa Fischetti said.

Dr. Ron Voorhees, acting Allegheny County Health Department director, suspects the unidentified woman came in contact with the bacteria in the building.

“We don’t know for sure and we often don’t, but we think it’s fairly likely since that is where she lived and most of her exposure would be there,” Dr. Voorhees said.

Over the weekend, the Health Department took steps to reduce the levels of bacteria by flushing the building’s water system.

“The one that we have the ability to do is raise the temperature of the water and flush it through the system and the high temperature then knocks down the level of the bacteria,” Dr. Voorhees said.

Some residents and their families are concerned, but John Old is confident the water is safe.

“As long as they keep the water temperature daily over a 140, 145 degrees I don’t think Legionnaires can survive in that,” Old said.

So far, only one person in the 102-unit apartment building has contracted the bacteria.

“As long as we take the appropriate steps, which we have, we’re doing our best to prevent the reoccurrence of any positive results in our facility,” Fischetti said.

Dr. Voorhees said an outbreak of legionella bacteria can happen anywhere. Typically, he said the bacteria has a more severe impact on seniors and others with weaker immune systems.

That’s why he said they continue to monitor York Commons and other places like it to protect residents and patients.


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