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2 Deaths As UW Medical Center Water Supply Linked To Legionnaires' Disease

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Two deaths of cardiac patients at the University of Washington Medical Center have now been linked to the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. Officials say the bacteria that causes the disease has been found in the cardiac unit’s water supply. During a news conference, University of Washington Medical Center Director Dr. Tom Staiger said the Legionella bacteria was found on an ice machine, sink and shower head in the cardiac care unit, but not in other areas of the hospital. He said steps have been taken to prevent further infections.

”We are doing everything that we can identify that is reasonably possible to put in place to reduce and eliminate the risk to our patients, family and staff,” he said.

The medical center uses city of Seattle water, but King County medical epidemiologist Dr. Meagan Kay says the general public is not in danger.

“We don’t have an indication that people in the general public should be worried about this. The hospital serves a really high-risk population with people with weakened immune systems, underlying lung diseases and all of the patients who have been detected with this infection have had those conditions,” she said.

She points out that even when the bacteria is in a water system, only five percent of people exposed will get Legionnaires’ disease. Kay says the disease is rare and is not transmitted person-to-person. She says disease symptoms to watch out for are similar to other types of pneumonia and include fever, cough, shortness of breath and muscle aches.