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Another person sickened in Legionnaires' disease outbreak at VA University Drive

| Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, 10:30 a.m.
Water fountain in hall at the VA Hospital in Oakland. Submitted photo
Reports of an outbreak of Legionnaire's disease has occurred at the VA Hospital in Oakland, Friday, November 16th, 2012. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

Five people have now been sickened in the Legionnaires' disease outbreak linked to the water distribution system at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System's University Drive Campus in Oakland, a hospital official reported on Thursday.

VA spokesman Dave Cowgill declined to say if the most recent victim has been successfully treated or remains hospitalized, citing federal privacy laws. Officials said last week that four patients who developed pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria were successfully treated and released.

“Patient privacy concerns prohibit me from responding in this particular case,” Cowgill wrote in an email.

The fifth patient likely contracted the illness before officials completed cleaning the water distribution system with hyperchlorinization and flushing, Cowgill said. The incubation period for the bacteria is 14 days, and therefore, officials determined the patient became infected in the hospital, he said.

The 146-bed facility remains under alert for more cases, and officials have imposed water restrictions after discovering the outbreak on Nov. 16.

Cowgill could not say when the restrictions will be lifted. Restrictions include using water buffaloes for cooking and cleaning, and using hand sanitizers instead of soap and water for handwashing.

Patients, visitors and employees have been instructed not to drink the water. Officials have brought in bottled water and bagged water for patients' baths.

The potentially deadly bacteria typically is treated with antibiotics. Some people with weakened immune systems can be more severely affected. The VA has not released specific patient information.

Officials said they have changed the way they disinfect the hospital's water distribution system.

Luis Fábregas is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or lfabregas@tribweb.com.

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