Woman dies at UW Medical Center as Legionnaires’ cases occur in same building as last year

Last year, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at UWMC sickened five people, including two who died.

Patients at the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) have again been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease believed to have been contracted at the hospital, including a woman in her 20s who died Friday.

Last year, an outbreak at UWMC sickened five people, including two who died.

In the new round of cases, occurring in the same building as last year, UWMC reported Friday morning that a man his 40s was in the process of being discharged. His case was reported to the health agency Wednesday.

The woman’s case was reported to Public Health – Seattle & King County on Thursday. The agency said in a news release Friday morning that the woman was “very ill, had multiple underlying conditions, and it is not yet known whether Legionella was a cause of death.”

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The patients’ medical histories suggest exposure to Legionella, a severe type of pneumonia, occurred while they were hospitalized at UWMC, according to a Public Health news release.

Legionnaires’ disease stems from an organism widely found in natural water supplies, and it occurs when people breathe in mist or vapor contaminated with the bacteria. Healthy people exposed to the bacteria typically don’t get sick, but it can be dangerous, even deadly, to people older than 50, former or current smokers and particularly those with weakened immune systems.

“It is a very challenging and difficult organism to eradicate from building water systems,” Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, health officer at Public Health, said at a news briefing Friday.

He said the outbreak doesn’t represent a public health risk and that the disease is rarely spread person to person.

A third patient, a man in his 60s whose case also was reported to Public Health on Thursday, has been diagnosed with Legionella pneumonia, but he appears to have been infected in the community and not at UWMC, officials said. He remained hospitalized in stable condition.

He and the other man were being treated with antibiotics, Dr. Tom Staiger, medical director at UWMC, said at the news briefing.

Cases typically occur two to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria.

Last year, a Legionella infection was detected during an autopsy of a woman in her 50s who had been a UWMC patient. A man in his 50s also died.

That outbreak was traced to the water…

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