The Healthcare Infection Transmission Systems (HITS) Catalyst for Change conference was recently held in Buffalo, New York. The 3-day consortium focused on several topics, with 1 day especially focused on the health care burden and control efforts for Legionella.

The causative bacteria of Legionnaires’ disease poses a unique public health threat and continues to cause outbreaks, with a large one recently reported in Atlanta, Georgia. Legionella is also extremely problematic for health care facilities, as it can easily prey on immunocompromised patients if proper water management protocols are not followed.

The final day of the consortium was focused on Legionella and water safety measures in health care, with discussions led by speakers Janet Stout, PhD; Sarah Clock, MPH, PhD; and Molly Scanlon, PhD, FAIA, FACHA. The speakers asked several key questions and discussed many difficult topics for health care professionals, with a focus on whether Legionnaires’ disease can be stopped.

For one, Stout emphasized that potable water is the most important source of Legionella transmission and that cooling towers are actually not a common source for sporadic or health care-associated cases, but rather large community outbreaks. Perhaps the most daunting statistic presented was that health care facilities account for 57% of Legionella cases and 85% of deaths.

Moreover, 20% of the reported cases are health care-associated and that ultimately, progress has been slow. Citing several outbreaks that have occurred in the past year, including 1 in a Toronto nursing home or an outbreak associated with a new Ohio hospital that required $61,000 to contain transmission, Stout emphasized that this is a growing problem, and Legionnaires’ disease cases have increased more than 300% in the past decade.

(Excerpt from Contagion Live)