9th person tests positive for legionella bacteria - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

9th person tests positive for legionella bacteria

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An investigation is underway after legionella bacteria was found in UAB Hospital's water system in early May. Source: WBRC video An investigation is underway after legionella bacteria was found in UAB Hospital's water system in early May. Source: WBRC video
Dr. Loring Rue, UAB's Chief Patient Safety and Clinical Effectiveness Officer. Source: WBRC video Dr. Loring Rue, UAB's Chief Patient Safety and Clinical Effectiveness Officer. Source: WBRC video
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

A ninth person has tested positive for the legionella bacteria, Jefferson County health officials confirm.

The person is not a patient at UAB, but visited the hospital before the water was treated for the bacteria.

On Wednesday, UAB officials shared more information about how the hospital first discovered legionella in the hospital's water system in early May.

A UAB patient on the oncology/hematology unit tested positive for the bacteria. Shortly after, a second patient in that same unit also tested positive. The hospital then started to treat the water system.

They flushed the water, shocked it with extremely high temperatures to kill any existing bacteria, and installed new filters on all of the faucet and shower heads connected to that specific plumbing system. Patients were then also tested for legionella.

Two patients who tested positive for legionella and were on the unit before the remediation of the water system have died, UAB confirmed on Tuesday. The causes of deaths for the patients have not yet been determined.

"We only know that in addition to their original illness the patients tested positive for legionella," Dr. Loring Rue, who oversees patient safety at UAB, said in a release.

Dr. Rue says the contamination was isolated to that one unit inside the Woman and Infants Center. He believes the problem has been addressed.

"I think that the average patient that's coming in and out of the hospital here has nothing to be concerned about. And again I want to emphasize that since May the 9th treatment remediation, there have been no subsequent positive tests from anywhere in the hospital," Rue said.

Dr. Rue says there were close to 25 patients on the affected oncology/hematology ward. As far as they know, only eight of those tested positive for legionella.

Rue said he expects to have more information on the source of the bacteria by this Friday.

On Wednesday, Jefferson County Health Officer Mark Wilson addressed a growing concern over the potentially deadly bacteria.

"This legionella outbreak is not a community-wide issue," Wilson explained.

It may not affect the general public, but there are some people who may be at risk if they were in a location where they could have been exposed.

That would be on the 5th, 6th, or 7th floor of the Women and Infant Center, Wilson added.

"It would take two to 14 days to get ill, and the illness would be manifested by cough and fever."

Wilson also says if you fall into that category, are showing these symptoms, and it's been within two weeks, then it's time to take action.

"Then you should see a doctor and get evaluated. The good news is that this is a treatable disease," Wilson said.

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