Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Today's Legionella announcement

This afternoon Dr. Cynthia Morrow, the Onondaga County Health Commissioner, announced that seven cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in the county over the past ten days. This includes four unconfirmed cases that Community General Hospital reported last week.

Obviously, there's a fair amount of news coverage this evening, including The Post-Standard, and Central New York television stations WSYR, WTVH, WSTM, and News10Now.

The Department of Health’s preliminary investigation identified that all of the unconfirmed cases were on or near Onondaga Hill, including at Community General Hospital. The source of this cluster of cases has not yet been determined.

Last week Community supplied the Health Department with water samples from both the hospital and the physicians’ office building cooling towers. In addition, over the course of the past several days, Community has undertaken additional measures involving experts in water treatment to assure disinfection of the cooling towers. Keeping Legionella below detectable levels in cooling towers at all times is practically impossible due to the ubiquitous nature of the bacterium, according to the Association of Water Technologists.

Community has routinely tested the hospital’s cooling tower and water supply. Also, Community has for years been one of the relatively few hospitals that actively tests for Legionella all patients who have pneumonia.

The office building cooling tower did recently test positive for the bacterium. In cooperation with the Health Department, we completely disinfected and sanitized that tower to eliminate the bacterium (even before test results were received).

Dr. Mitchell Brodey, Community’s Infectious Disease Specialist, and Sue Chamberlain, RN,CIC, our Director of the Infection Control Program, have been fully engaged with surveillance and with communications with the Department of Health, as has Community's engineering staff. We are glad to work with the state and county health department professionals, and we will continue to do so.

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