Legionella bacteria

The Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System found three water fixtures to be contaminated with the Legionella bacteria, shortly after a patient was diagnosed with Legionella pneumonia.

A patient’s shower, a staff sink and a public sink tested positive for the bacteria on Sept. 29 and October 1 at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System’s University Drive campus following a test by a water safety team.

The three locations tested positive for Blue-white Legionella, a species which typically does not cause infection in humans, according to a VA press release.

When six people died from Legionella bacteria in Pittsburgh’s Veterans Affairs hospitals in 2011-12, the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) and Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) set out to find a better way to combat future outbreaks.

The organizations have now released updated guidelines to control Legionella bacteria in western Pennsylvania.

The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to fire the Director of the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System. 

A statement from the VA says the department proposed the removal of the director  “following an investigation by the Office of Accountability Review (OAR) in which allegations of conduct unbecoming a Senior Executive were substantiated.”

Terry Gerigk Wolf had been placed on paid administrative leave June 13 pending a review of the Legionella outbreak at which caused the deaths of at least six veterans sickened more than 20 others at the Pittsburgh VA Hospital.

Eleven patients from a unit at UPMC Presbyterian were moved to other parts of the hospital following the detection of legionella in several sinks in a recently-remodeled area.

There are no confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, but UPMC spokeswoman Wendy Zellner said the patients were moved as a precautionary measure.

“We are following our normal Legionella monitoring and prevention protocols and expect the unit to reopen soon after proper remediation measures are taken,” Zellner said in a statement.

Office of Congressman Tim Murphy

More than 10 months after U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy wrote to former Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs Eric Shinseki asking what disciplinary action would be taken in the wake a Legionella outbreak at a Pittsburgh hospital, he has gotten an answer of sorts.

On Friday, the VA announced that Pittsburgh Healthcare System director and CEO Terry Wolf was placed on administrative leave, “pending the completion of administrative actions related to the Legionella outbreak.”

The U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs Monday will hold its second hearing on the 2011 Legionnaires' disease outbreak. The outbreak killed at least five patients and sickened 21 at Pittsburgh’s Veterans Affairs hospitals.

The hearing will take place in the Allegheny County Courthouse downtown and will be attended by committee members, other members of Congress, VA officials and relatives of those killed from Legionnaires'. 

The first wrongful death lawsuit sprouting from the 2011-12 Legionella outbreak at the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs hospital was filed Friday — a day after a VA Office of Inspector General's report indicated more than a third of the nation’s VA Hospitals did not report cases, assess patient risk or evaluate treatment of Legionnaires' disease.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA-18) said he is surprised Pittsburgh VA wasn’t the only location where staffers weren’t properly communicating about Legionella.

A Somerset prison is chemically treating its water supply after four inmates became infected with Legionella.

On July 26, Department of Corrections officials tested the water system at the State Corrections Institution-Somerset with preliminary results finding no traces of Legionella. However, the bacteria was found in the facility’s cooling towers.

Susan McNaughton, press secretary for the DOC, said the prison is cooperating with state agencies to eliminate the bacteria.

Officials with the VA Pittsburgh Health System have revealed that about 10 veterans may have been sickened by Legionella bacteria several years before a larger outbreak that began in 2011.

That has been blamed for five deaths, and at least 16 people were infected in 2011 and 2012. Since that time investigations have found lax reporting of Legionella bacteria in the system and other issues. Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA-18) said trust has been a major issue between the VA system and its veterans.

About a month after its re-opening, the fountain at Point State Park is being tested by the Allegheny County Department of Health for Legionella.

The move follows a report of one person coming down with Legionnaires' disease after a visit to the fountain. County health officials say it’s unlikely the infection came from the fountain, but they are testing it as a precaution.

Legionnaire's Disease in the VA Hospital system

Jun 19, 2013
John C. Schisler / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In a series of articles in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, reporter Adam Smeltz has investigated on the prevalence of the Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaire's disease, in Pittsburgh's VA hospital in Oakland.  His findings indicate that there may have been reason to fear an outbreak in the hospital prior to the one that occurred in 2011.