Patients are contracting Legionnaires' disease from healthcare facilities
at an alarming rate. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of people infected with Legionnaires’
disease grew by nearly four times from 2000–2014.
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe pneumonia caused by the bacterium
Legionella. The disease is transmitted through contaminated water droplets, which
can be small enough to be inhaled. Unfortunately, one in 10 persons who
become infected with Legionnaires’ disease do not survive. Fatality
rates are higher (25 percent) for patients infected in healthcare facilities
because they aren't healthy when they contract the disease.
At least 20 Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks are reported each year.
According to the latest CDC report, outbreaks most frequently occurred at hotels and resorts, long-term care
facilities, and hospitals. While 44 percent of the outbreaks were travel-associated
and 33 percent were healthcare–associated, outbreaks at healthcare
facilities were larger and resulted in more deaths than travel-associated
Legionnaire Outbreaks Are Preventable
Nearly all outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease could have been prevented,
often with more effective water management. "Legionnaires disease
at healthcare facilities is widespread, deadly and preventable,"
Anne Schuchat, MD (RADM, USPHS), acting director of the CDC, stated in
conjunction with the report. According to the CDC’s investigation:
- Approximately 48 percent of Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks are due
to more than one of the following problems.
Approximately 65 percent are due to process failures, such as not having a
Legionella water management program.
- Approximately 52 percent are due to human error, such as a hot tub filter
not being cleaned or replaced as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Approximately 35 percent are due to equipment, such as the failure of a
- Approximately 35 percent are due to changes in water quality from reasons
external to the building itself, such as nearby construction.
Legionnaire’s Disease Lawsuits
Because outbreaks are often attributable to negligence, patients infected
with Legionnaire’s disease may seek compensation for their injuries.
In Michigan, the McLaren-Flint Hospital is facing a $100-million lawsuit
over what the state has characterized as the "largest healthcare-associated
Legionnaires' outbreak known" in the United States. The state
is also pursuing its own investigation into the hospital’s alleged
failures to prevent contamination of its water supply.
The McLaren outbreak killed 12 people in 2014 and 2015 and sickened at
least 80 others. Bolstering the lawsuit’s claims, the CDC has established
the connection between a water sample taken from the hospital and three
sputum samples from patients who were diagnosed with Legionnaires.
If you or someone you love has suffered serious harm due to a hospital-acquired
infection, don’t hesitate to
a San Diego medical malpractice lawyer at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage
for a free consultation.