Florida Hospital: Water tested positive for legionella

Florida Hospital confirmed Thursday that water at their Orlando campus tested positive for legionella last week.  Hospital officials report that they have since hired a company to flush the water system.

According to the Centers for Disease Control legionella is bacteria found naturally in fresh water.  If it makes its way to the lungs it can cause a type of pneumonia called Legionnaire’s Disease.

According to Florida Hospital, a critically-ill patient tested positive for legionella in November, prompting tests of water at the facility.  On January 13, test results indicated legionella in the water.  Further testing on Wednesday revealed that the strain of legionella found in the patient and the strain of legionella found in the hospital’s water were different. 

“We think that there's a high likelihood that that patient acquired the disease outside,” said Florida Hospital epidemiologist Dr. Vincent Hsu.  Hsu said there have been no cases of hospital-acquired legionella since November.   “At this time we don't have any positive cases. We do see cases occur occasionally, but all of them have been confirmed to be acquired in the community before they came to the hospital.”

Because the bacteria causes disease when it is inhaled via mist or steam and is most likely to cause infection in high-risk patients, the hospital is taking extra precautions for certain patients.   “We have eliminated showering for that population -- for the bone marrow transplants and the solid organ transplants and oncology patients,” Hsu said. 

The water management company will continue flushing the system through the weekend.  “It's not unique to find legionella in a building water system.  The remedy is to exchange the water that might be aged or older with fresh, chlorinated water,” said Bill McCoy, the chief technology officer for Phigenics, the water management company. 

Florida Hospital says the water is safe to drink.  Legionella is not spread person to person.