IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital confirms case of Legionnaires’ disease transmitted at hospital

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MUNCIE, Ind. (April 4, 2016) - IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital confirms a case of Legionnaires' disease, discovered last week, was transmitted through water in the hospital.

Jeff Bird, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital Chief Operating Officer and Chief Medical Officer said after a patient presented symptoms consistent with the disease, testing was conducted and results came back positive for Legionnaires' disease.

The patient was described as being very sick with a fever and cough. Bird would not comment on the current condition.

“This patient was in the hospital long enough that had met the definition that the bacteria was transmitted to him sometime during the hospitalization," Bird stated.

Since the positive results were discovered, the hospital stopped water usage in all bathrooms and common areas. Bird said if the water is heated to 140 degrees, it's safe for consumption. That allowed for the kitchen to continue to function and for surgeries to continue.

Bird did say for a period of about eight hours on Sunday, water was shut off completely while chlorine was filtered through and flushed. The chemical should kill the bacteria, Bird stated.

Hospital workers spent Monday installing filters in showers and sinks. The filters should also keep any potential bacteria from spreading. According to the CDC, legionnaires disease is extremely rare. The disease is not passed through person to person and instead through water sources. The Indiana State Department of Health said in 2015, there were 175 reported cases of legionnaires disease. Of those cases, 12 people died.

While Legionnaires' is rare, Bird said the hospital is taking precautions to prevent any other patients from getting the disease.

"For people in the hospitals who are sick, or what we call immunocompromised,  where their immune system doesn't work as well as it should, those are the people that are really at high risk that could get very bad infections and even die," Bird stated.

The hospital will continue using bottled water while tests and cultures are continued. It could be weeks before those results are returned.

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