WEDNESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- A decorative fountain in
a hospital lobby was the cause of a 2010 Legionnaires' disease
outbreak in Wisconsin, a new study says.
Legionnaires' disease is a severe and potentially deadly form of
pneumonia caused by the bacteria
Legionella, which can be inhaled from contaminated water sources.
State and local health officials launched an investigation after
eight people in southeast Wisconsin developed Legionnaires'
disease. After interviewing the patients, investigators identified
one hospital as the origin of the outbreak.
Environmental testing within the hospital found notable amounts
Legionella in samples collected from the "water wall"
decorative fountain in the hospital's main lobby. All eight
patients had spent time in the lobby, the study said.
The fountain was shut down when it was first suspected as a
source of the outbreak and hospital officials alerted staff and
about 4,000 potentially exposed patients and visitors. All eight
patients recovered and no further cases of Legionnaires' disease
occurred after the fountain was shut down.
Before the outbreak, the fountain had undergone routine cleaning
and maintenance, the researchers said.
"Since our investigation, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health has developed interim guidelines advising health-care facilities with decorative fountains to establish strict maintenance procedures and conduct periodic bacteriologic monitoring for Legionella," study lead author Thomas Haupt, an epidemiologist with the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, said in a journal news release.
"The guidelines stress that until additional data are available that demonstrate effective maintenance procedures for eliminating the risk of Legionella transmission from indoor decorative water
fountains in health-care settings, water fountains of any type
should be considered at risk of becoming contaminated with
Legionella bacteria," he added.
The study appears in the February issue of the journal
Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more