(photo credit: REUTERS)
Potentially deadly Legionella bacteria have been discovered in the hot-water reservoir in a building at the Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya. The bacteria, which can cause pneumonia and have caused fatalities in Israel and abroad, were found in a building that houses the departments of pediatrics, pediatric surgery, pediatric orthopedics, neonatal intensive care, gynecology, as well as in the high-risk pregnancy unit in the government hospital.
No patients have been reported infected with the bacteria.
With the discovery of the bacterium, use of the building’s hot-water system was stopped. The Health Ministry has ordered that alternative plans be prepared in each department for the use of hot water. All ambulatory activities in the building have been halted, and some patients have been transferred to other departments, while the hospital’s maintenance personnel and outside experts work to sanitize the hot water system.
Legionella bacteria can cause a pneumonia
that is characterized by high fever, headache, diarrhea, muscle pain, chills, increased phlegm and pain throughout the body. By the second day, a patient can develop cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, confusion and other mental changes. The name “Legionnaires’ disease” was coined in 1976, after a respiratory disease affected delegates attending an American Legion of Pennsylvania convention in Philadelphia.
The bacteria thrive in water-supply systems that provide conditions suitable for their growth, including stagnant water, rust or calcium residues and a temperature of 25 to 45 degrees Celsius.
While the bacteria can spread through contaminated droplets expelled from the respiratory system, they are not directly transmitted from person to person. The greatest risk factor is smoking, which if stopped, can lower a person’s likelihood of infection. Sensitive populations, such as the elderly, chronically ill or those with a weak immune systems, are also at higher risk of becoming infected.