UAB: Preliminary tests show 'no presence of legionella' - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

UAB: Preliminary tests show 'no presence of legionella'

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UAB Hospital. Source: WBRC video UAB Hospital. Source: WBRC video
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Preliminary results from a June 4 testing of UAB Hospital's water system show "no presence of legionella bacteria," the hospital announced on Thursday morning.

UAB has lifted one of the precautions they put into place after the legionella bacteria was discovered in the water.

The hospital is no longer asking patients to wear masks when flushing toilets on the 5th, 6th and 7th floors of the Women and Infants Center.

"There is evidence of absolutely no growth of legionella in the samples that have been taken in cold water in toilets," Dr. Mary McIntyre of the Alabama Public Health Department said. 

The 5th, 6th and 7th floors took extra precautions since they share a plumbing system with the hematology/oncology unit where the legionella outbreak occurred.

While masks can be dropped, filters will remain in place on all water outlets.

"At this point, we are not recommending they be removed or taken off. We need months of negative test results before they or we will feel comfortable," McIntyre said.  

McIntyre says it will be a long process which could take months and UAB is fully cooperating with their efforts.

UAB also confirmed on Thursday that a ninth patient has tested positive for legionella bacteria. The patient was on the hematology/oncology unit, the same floor where eight other patients tested positive for the bacteria.

The ninth patient was admitted to the unit "several days before special filters that remove legionella from the water were installed throughout the building on May 25," UAB said in a release on Thursday.

Health officials believe the patient was exposed before the water filters were installed. The patient is receiving "appropriate treatment," a spokesperson for the hospital stated.

In addition to the original eight patients who tested positive, a visitor to the hospital also tested positive for legionella. The latest confirmed case brings the total number of people who tested positive for legionella bacteria to 10.

Two people who tested positive for the bacteria died in early-to-mid May. However, the hospital says the causes of deaths for those patients have not been determined and their exact times of death won't be released due to medical privacy laws.

The Alabama Department of Public Health learned about the legionella outbreak at UAB on May 19. But they had been receiving individual lab results from UAB between April 11 and May 19.

To address the legionella outbreak, UAB installed special filters on shower heads and faucets, flushed out the system and shocked the water with extreme temperatures. The water filters remain in place, and the hospital says they will continue to test the water system for legionella.

Legionella is a bacteria that can cause a form of pneumonia called legionellosis or Legionnaire's disease. People with weaker immune systems are more susceptible to legionella bacteria.

UAB's Senior Vice President for Inpatient Services, Anthony Patterson, issued the following statement on Thursday morning:

After extensive testing, review and close consultation with the Jefferson County Department of Health, the Alabama Department of Public Health and the CDC, UAB Hospital has lifted the precautionary recommendation that everyone on floors 5, 6 and 7 of the Women and Infants Center wear a mask when flushing the toilet. This precautionary measure was implemented after patients on a single unit on one floor tested positive for legionella, a bacteria that can lead to a type of pneumonia called legionellosis.

UAB Hospital has received preliminary results from the extensive tests taken on June 4 of the water system that serves the hematology/oncology unit. Those tests showed no presence of legionella bacteria. Those tests were conducted to confirm the effectiveness of the chemical shock that was successfully completed on May 31.

An additional patient on the hematology/oncology unit has tested positive for legionella bacteria; this patient was admitted to the unit several days before special filters that remove legionella from water were installed throughout the building on May 25. The patient is receiving appropriate treatment. Based on the incubation period of legionellosis and the preliminary test results that show no presence of legionella in the water system, the county and state health departments and the CDC agree that the onset of the patient's symptoms suggest that exposure occurred prior to the installation of the water filters on the unit.

Water filters remain in place, and planned testing and remediation will continue with the guidance of public health authorities.

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