Two University of Washington Medical Center patients died after possible exposure to Legionella bacteria that causes a possibly severe type of pneumonia known as Legionnaires’ disease.
UWMC informed Seattle and King County public health officials that the water supply in the Cascade Tower, which includes the cardiac unit, tested positive for Legionella, according to public health staff.
Many are probably wondering, how can a person become ill after being exposed to Legionella?
Legionella is a bacteria often found in freshwater environments. According to the Center or Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria becomes a health concern when it grows in human-created water systems. Human-made water systems consist of hot tubs, large plumbing systems, fountains, cooling towers and hot water tanks and heaters.
People are often exposed to the legionella bacteria when breathing in mist containing the bacteria, according to the CDC.
The CDC says symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches and headaches.
Seattle and King County public health officials are consulting with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to help provide control measures to reduce the risk of Legionella contamination, according to public health staff.
People who are diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease are often current and former smokers, people with weak immune systems, diagnosed with chronic illnesses, those who consume drugs and with chronic lung disease, according to the CDC.
Currently, there are no vaccines that prevent this form of pneumonia.
For most people, the risk of Legionella is very low. Both patients who developed Legionnaire’s disease were at high risk for this infection, according to public health staff.
Public health officials say they can’t predict future cases after the death of two patients.
For more information on Legionella, CDC