Infection control workers at UPMC Presbyterian hospital this week found Legionella bacteria in sinks in three patient rooms, but officials said no patients have tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal pneumonia.
As a preventive measure, officials at the region’s largest hospital moved 11 patients from the affected unit to other parts of the hospital, Tami Minnier, UPMC’s chief quality officer, said on Tuesday. The patients are being monitored.
Workers identified the Legionella contamination in a pulmonary medicine unit on the hospital’s 10th floor, she said. The unit, which houses vulnerable patients with lung disease, recently was remodeled and routine water testing was done when it reopened.
“When you go and look for something really aggressively and you monitor it, and you track it, you find it,” Minnier said. “The most important thing is that when you find it, you remediate it. It does not mean that anything is wrong.”
UPMC reported the Legionella finding to the Allegheny County Health Department and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
“They’re taking appropriate steps to deal with the issue,” said Guillermo Cole, spokesman for the county Health Department.
Legionella occur naturally in the environment, and health experts have said Western Pennsylvania’s combination of abundant water and old plumbing can help the bacteria to flourish.
“Regardless of the disinfection technology, because a water distribution system is complex and the water doesn’t evenly flow through the system, you may have positivity despite having disinfection,” said Janet Stout, a microbiologist and director of the Special Pathogens Laboratory, Uptown.