More Cases Of Legionnaires’ Disease Detected At University Hospital

More Cases Were Expected After Original Discovery; Water System Has Since Been Disinfected

Hospital hallway
Ralf Heß (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

As of Friday, 11 patients cared for at the University Hospital have contracted Legionnaires’ Disease. Four people are still hospitalized.

On Nov. 28, University Hospital officials reported four cases of Legionnaires’ another person who was infected outside of a health care setting was later identified at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison.

The bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ can be found in water systems, so the University Hospital flushed all hot water lines in the hospital with chlorine. Testing showed a reduction in the harmful bacteria but monitoring continues.

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“We are confident the hyperchlorination worked as expected,” said John Marx, UW Health senior infection control practice specialist. “An aggressive program of monitoring and screening is in place to ensure the system is functioning as designed. Our commitment to the safety of our patients is unwavering.”

In a press release, UW Health said the hospital is working with the Wisconsin Division of Public Health “to confer on best practices and support additional testing efforts.” The hospital has also invited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “serve as an additional independent verification of system safety.”

Legionnaires’ is not spread from person to person. People at most risk of getting this type of pneumonia are those over age 50 and people who have compromised immune systems. The disease is treatable with antibiotics, however one patient at University Hospital who also had other serious medical conditions died.

Officials say the four patients hospitalized at University Hospital are in stable condition and antibiotic treatment is working as expected.