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Legionnaires contracted by resident of Pitt facility

| Monday, June 30, 2014, 11:06 p.m.

The University of Pittsburgh flushed plumbing twice this month at the University Club and Family House University Place in Oakland because a resident contracted Legionnaires' disease, officials confirmed on Monday.

It isn't clear whether the person contracted the disease from bacteria-tainted tap water in the building at 123 University Place, said Randy Struk, president-elect of the Family House board. He did not know the person's condition and could not release the name.

The patient was staying at the Family House residence for medical patients and their families.

“As far as I'm aware, nothing has been confirmed as linked” to the water supply, Struk said.

Family House leases from Pitt the top four floors of the eight-story University Club building, where the nonprofit community group maintains and rents out 48 bedrooms on a short-term basis. It had the tap water tested for Legionella bacteria on June 16 when workers learned about the lone Legionnaires' diagnosis, Struk said.

Immune-compromised people can develop the severe form of pneumonia when they inhale the common bacteria in mist from a shower or other sources.

When the water tested positive for the bacteria, Pitt heated and flushed pipes on June 20, university spokesman Ken Service said.

Struk said a second heat-and-flush process cleaned the plumbing on Friday because a second test showed small amounts of Legionella might remain.

Family House was waiting for more test results. Notifications sent to recent residents at the facility didn't find anyone else who might have become ill, Struk said.

Pitt knows of no one at the University Club who might have gotten sick, Service said. The university-operated club occupies the lower four floors of the building.

“We have carried out what is believed to be the recommended, standard procedure for addressing Legionella bacteria,” Service said. He said Pitt knew of no similar problems at neighboring buildings.

At the Uptown-based Special Pathogens Laboratory, CEO Janet E. Stout said Family House and Pitt responded well. Her lab handled the water testing, though Stout said she could not comment on the concentration of Legionella it found.

“It was sufficient to warrant a response by the facility,” Stout said. “They took a very aggressive and proactive response, and very rapidly.”

Adam Smeltz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com.

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