Officials at Brooke Army Medical Center believe they’ve identified the likely source of the Legionella bacteria that infected an employee in early February, after two different incidents of employees becoming infected with Legionnaires’ disease since last August, according to multiple news reports.
Extensive testing was conducted in Building 15 after two cases of Legionnaires’ were confirmed in August, but no source for the bacteria was found at that time.
The latest round of testing revealed that Legionella bacteria, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, was present in a hot-water heater.
After the newest illness was confirmed in early February, all personnel and patients were moved out of the affected building on Feb. 6 – the second time the building was vacated since August. It remains shuttered and secured until officials are assured the building is safe.
“We are fully cooperating with local and regional public health officials to ensure there is no further risk for exposure moving forward,” said Col. Traci Crawford, BAMC deputy commanding officer. “BAMC leadership is fully committed to providing a safe environment for all patients and staff.”
All three individuals infected with Legionnaires’ disease were civilian employees. All three have recovered, according to hospital officials.
Patients, employees or recent visitors to Building 15 or the surrounding area (Building 15 is adjacent to the hospital) who may be exhibiting symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease (see below) or concerns about their health should immediately contact their medical provider.
Legionnaires’ disease facts
Legionnaires’ disease – also known as Legionellosis or Legionnaires’ pneumonia – is a respiratory disease caused by Legionella bacteria. The bacteria also can create a less serious infection called Pontiac fever, which has symptoms similar to a mild case of the flu.
How do you get Legionella?
Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which grow best in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments.
Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, such as:
- water systems like those used in hotels, hospitals, and nursing homes
- hot tubs and whirlpools
- swimming pools
- showers and faucets
- cooling towers in air conditioning systems
- hot water tanks and heaters
- large plumbing systems
- decorative fountains
- mist machines
- equipment used in physical therapy.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease look like other forms of pneumonia or even flu, which is why so many cases go unreported every year. Early symptoms can include the following:
- fever (potentially 104 degrees or higher)
- loss of appetite
- muscle aches.
After the first few days of the disease presenting, symptoms can worsen to include:
- chest pain when breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
- confusion and agitation
- a cough, which may bring up mucus and blood
- diarrhea (about one-third of all cases result in gastrointestinal problems)
- nausea and vomiting
- shortness of breath.
The incubation period – the amount of time between breathing in the bacteria and developing symptoms – is usually 2 to 10 days after exposure and can be as much as 16 days.