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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

What’s in Your Water? Waterborne Bugs Cause Fatal Infections

The water of life can sometimes mean death.

Fatal infections can result if immune compromised patients are exposed to pathogenic bacteria that thrive in water, outbreak investigators recently reported at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual EIS conference in Atlanta.

Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers are the CDC’s famous frontline medical detectives, an image they reinforce by having a shoe sole logo complete with a smashed wad of gum. They are typically the first on the scene of an outbreak, and in this case we feature three EIS officers who traced distinctly different clusters of infected patients to a common source: water.

The waterborne etiologic agents involved are well-known repeat offenders: Legionella pneumophila, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Burkholderia cepacia and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. These pathogens and other water bugs have minimal nutritional requirements and can tolerate a variety of physical conditions in healthcare water systems and supplies.

In the three EIS-reported outbreaks tracing the infecting agent to water there were a total of 54 patients infected and five of them died.

For the rest of this story see the June 2015 issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.