In continued routine water testing, VA Black Hills Health Care Systems’ (VA BHHCS) results for Legionella showed Legionella pneumophila (a bacteria known to cause Legionella disease) in three fixtures in Building 148 at the Fort Meade VA Medical Center.
The health risk to Veterans, employees, and visitors at this point is considered to be very minimal. VA BHHCS has never had a documented case of Legionella disease.
Immediate actions were taken to eliminate the bacteria. While work is done to improve the water quality, all effected fixtures will remain out of service until retesting has been completed. Quarterly samples will be taken from both hot and cold water distribution systems. Measures to eliminate bacteria include filtration, higher than normal concentrations of chlorine and water temperatures, removing fixtures from service and other water treatment techniques.
VA BHHCS standards for testing exceed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and any current private or municipal water standards, making VA a leader in legionella prevention. VA BHHCS takes pride in providing a safe and healthy environment for its Veterans, visitors. Water testing will continue to focus on all VA BHHCS buildings in which patients, residents, or visitors stay overnight.
This finding follows the recent announcement of positive Legionella pneumophila bacteria at the Hot Springs VA Medical Center. Measures to eliminate the bacteria are ongoing and additional testing will be conducted to ensure that the water is safe for use.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “Legionella bacteria occurs naturally in the environment, usually in water, and consists of various types, some benign and some that can cause what is commonly known as Legionnaires’ Disease.”
The bacteria grow best in warm water like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems and decorative fountains. People are exposed to Legionnaires’ Disease when they breathe in a mist or vapor containing the bacteria.
The CDC notes “…most people exposed to the bacteria do not become ill and the bacteria are not transmitted from person to person. People that do contract Legionnaires’ Disease will have pneumonia since the bacteria grows and thrives in the lungs.” Persons at increased risk include the immunocompromised, those over 50 years of age, those with chronic lung disease and smokers, and those who receive dialysis or are inpatients in a hospital.
The early symptoms of Legionella disease may be flu-like with elevated temperature, muscle aches, headaches, tiredness and dry cough followed by high fever, chills and occasionally diarrhea.
CDC website www.cdc.gov/legionella for more information on legionella, its causes and prevention.