Allegheny County Health Department developing Legionella guidelines
While regular testing for Legionella bacteria is conducted in the four nursing homes operated by Allegheny County, health officials do not know how many similar facilities take steps to prevent outbreaks of the potentially deadly disease.
The Allegheny County Health Department is in the early stages of assembling a regional task force to develop guidelines to help nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities combat outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease, acting director Dr. Ronald Voorhees said on Sunday.
The need for such a task force was announced in late March after outbreaks at two local Veterans Affairs hospitals that killed five people. On Saturday, workers at a senior citizens apartment building in Lawrenceville were completing work to rid the water system of Legionella bacteria because a resident contracted pneumonia from the bacteria.
There are no national or state standards or requirements for medical facilities to test for Legionella, Voorhees said.
“In the absence of solid guidelines, we are trying to develop a task force to address this as best we can locally,” he said. “At the present time, we have no idea how many facilities in the county are testing or treating their water systems, so we certainly don't want to wait on this.”
Voorhees said the task force will include personnel from hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities where medically vulnerable people live. He did not give a time frame for when the group will be formed.
The water system is tested at the county's four John J. Kane nursing homes, which have 1,324 patients, Voorhees said.
About 100 cases of Legionnaires' disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia, are reported in Allegheny County each year, he said.
Legionnaires' disease is caused by the Legionella bacteria, which is found naturally in the environment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The bacteria grows best in warm water and is most frequently found in fixtures such as hot tubs, hot water tanks and large plumbing systems that have not been properly cleaned and disinfected, according to the CDC.
Steps to rid the bacteria from pipes include super-heated flushing of pipes and the installation of copper-silver ionization systems that add charged particles to water.
The plumbing at the VA's new $75 million outpatient center in Butler will include a system that treats water with ultraviolet rays to kill the bacteria. The Butler VA discovered Legionella bacteria in its water system on Dec. 11 during routine testing, but no patients were sickened.
The VA Pittsburgh plans a $10 million upgrade to its water system to prevent outbreaks.
Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tradition rules in Pittsburgh: Keep bridge color the same, poll finds
- Public implored to avoid iPhone cases that resemble guns
- Fireworks displays costly, but W. Pa. communities feel obligated
- Plenty going on in Pittsburgh over holiday weekend
- South Side Slopes police chase ends with car into a front porch
- Wabash Tunnel to open to inbound, high-occupancy vehicles Saturday night
- July 4 road and river closures
- Newsmaker: Tessa Jimenez
- Pittsburgh a big draw for tourists on July 4th weekend
- Attorney general accuses Golden Living homes of failing to provide basic services to elderly
- Higher school taxes prevail in Western Pennsylvania, Trib finds