Legionellosis is the condition of being infected by Legionella bacteria. Recent news has increased awareness about how important it is to prevent the hazard that causes legionellosis from harming people in health-care facilities. In October 2005, a $600 million class action lawsuit was filed onbehalf of legionellosis victims at the Seven Oaks Home for the Aged, along-term health-care facility in Toronto. Infectious Legionella bacteria in the building killed 23 people. At least 135 people were infected:70 residents, 39 staff members, 21 visitors and five people who lived or worked near the health-care facility. The hazard is believed to have been in aerosolized water droplets transmitted throughout the building by the ventilation and cooling systems.
Earlier in 2005, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) cited the New York Presbyterian Health Care System for violations related to the investigationof legionellosis cases at its Milstein Pavilion, Columbia Division in New York City. The infections occurred from March to May 2005. At least seven patients were harmed. Two of those patients subsequently died while hospitalized. The investigationrevealed that Columbia Presbyterian Hospital failed to effectively notify patients and visitors of water restrictions and follow policies and protocols to help detect, monitor and eradicate the Legionella hazard from the building potable water distribution system. The New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Division, was alsocited by the NYSDOH for similar violations related to the monitoring of its potablewater system. Lawsuits are pending.The NYSDOH responded by issuing direct and specific guidance to healthcare facilities in the state.
About the Author
William F. McCoy, Ph.D., is chief technology officer for Phigenics in Chicago. He is a member ofthe ASHRAE Environmental Health Committee,ASHRAE Technical Committee 3.6, Water Treatment,and is on the Standard Projects Committee,Prevention Practices for Legionellosis Associatedwith Building Water Systems.