MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin hospital announced Wednesday afternoon that it is taking action to counter a suspicious risk to patients associated with the hospital's hot water system.
The UW hospital said three previously hospitalized patients and one hospitalized patient had developed legionnaires' disease, also called legionellosis, a type of pneumonia.
On Wednesday afternoon, the hospital will implement a "hyperchloration" process to empty all the hot water pipes of the building to eliminate any Legionella bacteria. The hospital also informed the patients and staff concerned about the situation.
According to the statement, legionaries are caused by bacteria that are usually present at low concentrations in the tap. The UW hospital said it was using a water treatment system designed to keep the levels low, but that a "recent adjustment of this system could have compromised its function," he said. said hospital officials.
Recent tests on some units of the hospital have shown high levels, the statement said.
The four patients who had developed legionnaires' symptoms were tested, and all four were tested positive for a urine test, the statement said. All four tests were performed within the last 10 days. The hospital said tests were underway to determine if the bacteria were linked to the hospital's water distribution system.
The risk comes solely from hot water in the form of droplets suspended in the air, such as the water from a hot shower, said hospital officials. The cold tap water poses no risk. Healthy patients who can inhale droplets of water with the bacteria pose a low risk. The highest risk individuals are patients aged 50 and over and patients with compromised lung disease or immune system.
When the hospital became aware of the four patients with legionnaires, the officials stopped using the showers in the hospital. This judgment should continue until early Thursday.
The hospital regularly monitors the water and whenever a patient is suspected of having legionnaires. So far, no case of legionellosis contracted at the university hospital for 23 years.
The American Family Children's Hospital is not affected. Two of the four patients left the hospital; the other two remain hospitalized.
Until Wednesday afternoon, no other cases of legionnaires had been identified, the hospital said.
UW Hospital stated that the Wisconsin State Public Health Division had also been informed and would be informed as new information was provided.
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