CDC: High Rate of Legionnaires’ Disease in Healthcare Facilities

Legionella pneumophila bacteria
Legionella pneumophila bacteria
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 76% of US healthcare facilities reported cases of Legionnaires' disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that 76% of US jurisdictions studied reported healthcare-associated cases of Legionnaires’ disease.

Although all 50 states report basic data to the CDC on Legionnaires’ disease cases, information regarding where patients may have been exposed is not always included. Approximately 6,000 cases were reported in 2015, but only half included exposure data.

The analysis, published in the CDC’s Vital Signs report, included exposure data from 20 states and New York City. Exposure information from these 21 jurisdictions were used to determine how often Legionnaires’ disease was associated with healthcare facilities.

The results showed that 3% of Legionnaires’ disease cases are definitely associated with healthcare facilities (inpatient stays more than 10 days before symptoms begin). An additional 17% are possibly associated with a healthcare facility (exposure to a healthcare facility for less than 10 days before symptom onset).

Among the cases that were definitely associated with healthcare facilities, 80% were associated with long-term care facilities, 18% were associated with hospitals, and 2% were associated with both. In addition, 88% were in patients older than 60 years of age. The cases were reported from 72 unique facilities, and the number of cases ranged from 1 to 6 per facility.

“Legionnaires’ disease in hospitals is widespread, deadly, and preventable,” stated Anne Schuchat, MD, CDC Acting Director. “These data are especially important for healthcare facility leaders, doctors, and facility managers because it reminds them to think about the risks of Legionella in their facility and to take action. Controlling these bacteria in water systems can be challenging, but it is essential to protect patients.”

The CDC notes that a new measure was put into place on June 2nd that will encourage the implementation of water management programs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has also released a Survey and Certification Memo stating that healthcare facilities are expected to adhere to procedures that reduce the risk of Legionella.

“Safe water at a healthcare facility might not be on a physician’s mind, but it’s an essential element of healthcare quality,” added Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Having a water management program that focuses on keeping facility water safe can help prevent Legionnaires’ disease.”

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients in health care facilities at risk for Legionnaires’ disease [press release]. Published June 6, 2017. Accessed June 7, 2017.

This article originally appeared on Clinical Advisor