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Assess and Act to Prevent ‘Dangerous and Deadly’ Legionnaires' Disease

By Terrey L. Hatcher, Editorial Group Manager, Relias Media

Legionella expert Janet Stout, PhD, advises healthcare facilities to be proactive in testing their water systems for the “dangerous and deadly” bacteria, which can be found in about half of these facilities and other large buildings. The naturally occurring bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease, which is a severe form of bacterial pneumonia.

In the first Rounds With Relias podcast, Stout tells Relias Media Editor Jesse Saffron that “over the last 10 years, the number of reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease has gone up over 300 percent. So we have our work cut out for us.” Stout is president of Special Pathogens Laboratory and research associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering.

Proactive testing of healthcare facilities’ water systems is an important step in preventing hospital-acquired cases of the disease. “When it comes to hospitalized patients,” she notes, “the risk of death is as high as 30 percent.”

Stout also advises physicians to order diagnostic testing for Legionella more often because about 25 percent of cases occur in people outside the common high-risk groups. A delay of a few days in treating the patient with appropriate antimicrobial therapy for Legionnaires’ disease “can dramatically increase mortality,” she cautions. “So it’s really important for Legionnaires’ disease to be high on the list of concerns for physicians.”

To read more on Legionella outbreaks and other infection prevention strategies, subscribe to Hospital Infection Control & Prevention, which offers CME and CE credits for healthcare providers.