Parma — A routine water test in the intensive care unit at Parma Community General Hospital on Tuesday revealed elevated levels of Legionella, the bacterium that causes Legionnaire’s disease.
As of Friday afternoon, no cases of Legionnaire’s had been reported.
Hospital officials confirmed unusually high levels of the bacteria were found in faucet water from the ICU, although other areas of the hospital remained unaffected. Legionella is naturally occurring in water, but certain conditions, such as warm, stagnant water, can cause flare-ups.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, hospital buildings are at particular risk because of their complex water systems and the fact that many patients have illnesses that increase their risk for infection.
Legionnaire’s disease is contracted by inhaling contaminated water vapor. Common symptoms include a high fever, chills and a cough. Signs of illness usually begin two to 14 days after exposure.
Infection can lead to a form of pneumonia and even death in 5 percent to 30 percent of cases, according to the CDC.
Smokers, the elderly and people with lowered immune systems are more at risk of developing symptoms. Most patients can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
Since the discovery of the high bacteria levels, the hospital has relocated two ICU patients who were considered vulnerable and released a third. Parma will continue selected admissions to the ICU, said hospital marketing director Mark White. Patients and staff have been alerted.
White said that the hospital has already started eliminating the Legionella colonies by replacing the ICU faucets and flushing out the pipes with hot water.
“We’re erring on the side of caution,” White said. “There hasn’t been any outbreak. It’s a manageable situation.”
This is not the first time Legionella has been an issue at Parma General. Since a single case of Legionnaire’s disease occurred in 2002, the hospital has been voluntarily testing its water supply every quarter. White said there have been other instances of positive Legionella levels since testing began but no additional cases of Legionnaire’s.
Cuyahoga County Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan said that hospital officials had alerted his staff to the current situation. He applauded them for their continued testing regimen and reporting.
“It’s a very good practice to prevent cases among patients,” Allan said.
Last year, 33 cases of Legionnaire’s were reported in Cuyahoga County. There have been 22 cases so far this year.
Original article at: Cleveland.com