Investigation underway for UW Medicine in recent Legionnaires' cases | KUOW News and Information

Investigation underway for UW Medicine in recent Legionnaires' cases

Aug 25, 2017

Three patients at the University of Washington Medical Center have been diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease this week. One of them died Friday and now officials are investigating the hospital.

Legionella is the water-borne bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease: a severe pneumonia that can cause fever, shortness of breath or muscle aches.

But Dr. Jeff Duchin with Seattle & King County Public Health doesn't want to scare anyone.

“I wanted to emphasize that this situation does not represent a risk to the general public,” Duchin said. “The disease rarely, if ever, spreads from person to person.”

So how does someone even get it? Duchin said it can be contracted by breathing in mist contaminated with the bacteria.

Two of the patients' medical histories show they might have been exposed to it while being treated at the hospital's Cascade Tower. That's the same building investigated last year for an outbreak of the disease.

The findings led officials to make a variety of changes. The hospital's medical director, Dr. Tom Staiger said now they're running new checks.

“We are thoroughly testing sinks, ice machines and other water sources in this particular tower,” Staiger said. “We should have preliminary results next week and more definitive results in two weeks.”

While found most often in water systems, legionella is not seen frequently in the Pacific Northwest, Duchin said.