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7 cases of Legionnaires' Disease under investigation at McLaren Macomb Hospital

Posted: 8:07 PM, Oct 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-11 14:19:21-04
Oakland County reporting uptick in Legionnaires' cases

(WXYZ) — Officials with the Macomb County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service are investigating what may be seven possible cases of Legionnaires' Disease at McLaren Macomb Hospital.

The cases have been reported since late July, with six of the seven cases being reported since mid September.

The head of the nurses union, Jeff Morawski, said that they found out about the cases through local media and there was no transparency with the hospital whatsoever.

He told 7 Action News that as far back as mid-summer, bottled water was brought up to the hospital – signs posted on ice machines warning not to use them. Morawski said the situation is being handled "very poorly."

"I feel like when you come to work, or come as a patient, at a hospital, you should be in a safe environment. You're there to get better," Morawski said. "The workers need to be protected so we can serve our community."

Officials stress the investigation is ongoing and a source has not been identified.

A hospital spokesperson told 7 Action News that all current and future patients were notified of the situation on Thursday. Patients discharged within the last two weeks were also informed. So far, the hospital says it hasn't had to move any patients due to the investigation of the seven cases.

In a statement, the hospital said.

"McLaren Macomb maintains an active and robust water management plan and our water is safe. Rates of Legionnaires’ disease have been increasing steadily in Michigan and across the United States. Hospitals – including ours – are monitoring these trends and putting proactive plans in place to minimize risks. We conduct regular testing of our water systems and have not experienced any indications of growth of the Legionella bacteria in our facility.

In July, as part of our ongoing plan, we conducted routine maintenance to ensure ongoing high-quality water throughout the facility. Hospital staff members were notified and signs were posted to alert patients, visitors and staff to the maintenance procedures. There were no risks to any patients, staff or physicians."

The hospital is cooperating and released the below statement:

Like many communities in our state, Macomb County has experienced an increase in the number of Legionnaires’ disease diagnoses in recent months, with 45 cases so far this year and 96 cases in the last 12 months.

Seven of those cases have been diagnosed in patients who spent time in our facility since late July. Though the investigation is ongoing and a definite source has not been identified, we are responding with an abundance of caution and partnering with the Macomb County Health Department to identify targeted areas in the hospital to implement additional precautions to our water management efforts (installing filters, removing aerators, providing bottled water options).

Additionally, though our ongoing water testing program has not indicated any signs of the growth of legionella (the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease) we will be increasing the frequency of water testing in our facility and will continue to work closely and share information with county health officials.

The Macomb County Health Department reminds that Legionnaires’ disease is a respiratory infection with symptoms that include fever, cough and radiologic findings consistent with pneumonia.

Legionella bacteria are naturally occurring in fresh water sources. The organism can multiply in manmade water systems such as cooling towers, decorative fountains, hot tubs and large building plumbing systems. If Legionella grows and multiplies in a building water system, water containing Legionella can spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in. People can get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria.

Individuals at higher risk for LD include those who are age 50 or older; have a current or past smoking history; or have an underlying illness or condition such as chronic lung disease, kidney or liver failure, diabetes, systemic malignancies, or immune system disorders due to medications or disease. Recent travel and overnight stays in hospitals or other healthcare facilities can increase an individual’s risk for exposure to LD.

Further information regarding LD is available from the CDC website at CDC.gov/legionella [links.govdelivery.com] .

They are also working to identify any other patients who may have been infected.

McLaren Hospital and CEO Tom Brisse released the following statement:

We appreciate the County's partnership on this community health issue. With nearly 100 cases of Legionella diagnosed across Macomb County over the past 12 months, this represents an opportunity and a need for the healthcare community, the Macomb County Health Department, and other key stakeholders to collaborate in order to minimize the health risk to our community.

Here is some information on Legionnaires' and Legionella released by the health department:

LD is a respiratory infection caused by Legionella bacteria. LD is a severe infection that includes symptoms of fever, cough and radiologic findings consistent with pneumonia. Legionella bacteria are naturally occurring in fresh water sources. The organism can multiply in manmade water systems such as cooling towers, decorative fountains, hot tubs and large building plumbing systems.

After Legionella grows and multiplies in a building water system, water containing Legionella can spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in. People can get LD when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria.

Individuals at higher risk for LD include those who are age 50 or older; have a current or past smoking history; or have an underlying illness or condition such as chronic lung disease, kidney or liver failure, diabetes, systemic malignancies, or immune system disorders due to medications or disease. Recent travel and overnight stays in hospitals or other health care facilities can increase an individual’s risk for exposure to LD.

Patients with pneumonia should be tested for LD if they have any of the following histories:
Have failed outpatient antibiotic treatment for community-acquired pneumonia.
Are immunocompromised.
Are admitted to the ICU.
Traveled within 10 days prior to symptom onset.
Were recently hospitalized.
Developed pneumonia ≥48 hours after hospital admission.

If you are concerned about possible symptoms of pneumonia you should contact your primary care provider. Further information regarding LD is available from the CDC website at Cdc.gov/legionella .