Legionella discovered at Miamisburg hospital

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

A bacteria that can cause a potentially deadly disease and has affected area schools and businesses in recent months was found at Sycamore Medical Center in Miamisburg, the Kettering Health Network said.

Hospital officials found traces of Legionella late last week while conducting proactive water safety testing, according to a news release. The bacteria was in a pump that delivers hot water to a section of the hospital.

Kettering Health officials took immediate action after receiving the test results to ensure that patients, staff and visitors were protected, the release says. The hospital flushed the hot water system and installed additional filters throughout the facility. Officials said they are conducting additional tests to ensure that the bacteria has been eliminated.

“There has been no interruption of hospital operations or any confirmed infections due to the water,” the statement says. “Hospital staff continue to closely monitor patients. Hospital leaders reported the matter to the Ohio Department of Health and Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County, and will continue to keep health officials updated.”

Legionella causes the potentially deadly Legionnaires' disease, which can be mistaken for the new coronavirus because it shares some similar symptoms.

Legionnaires' disease symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches and headaches. In addition, it can be associated with other symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea and confusion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms usually begin two to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria, but it can take longer so people should watch for symptoms for about two weeks after exposure.

The bacteria can grow in stagnant water. Legionnaire’s disease is particularly prominent in Ohio, which ranked second highest in the nation for cases reported in 2018, said Ken Elrich, founder of Solid Blend Water Management Solutions, an Englewood-based company that does Legionella risk assessment and remediation.

Solid Blend has been hired for Legionella-related work on 62 buildings so far this year ― they worked on a total of 19 in 2019.

Health departments across the country reported 10,000 cases of Legionnaires disease in 2018, according to the CDC’s latest report. Last year 46 cases were reported in Montgomery County, and 28 have been reported so far this year, according to Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County. One person died in February, and a total of three deaths occurred last year, the county said.

In 2019, the state of Ohio reported 785 cases, including 50 fatalities, officials said, noting that the fatality data may be incomplete. As of Wednesday, there’s been 287 cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

When COVID-19 became a pandemic and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered a lockdown, many schools and businesses sat dormant, causing the bacteria to grow in their water systems. As the lockdown was lifted and people returned to their office buildings and school districts prepared buildings for the fall, the CDC, ODH and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency put out warnings about Legionnaires' Disease. That led many area businesses and schools to be proactive and test for the pathogen.

School districts in Vandalia-Butler, Dayton, Kettering and Oakwood found cases of Legionella bacteria in some of their buildings. They quickly acted to treat the water, and have taken other steps to ensure the bacteria is no longer present in their facilities. Others have taken preventative measures to lessen the chance of the bacteria growing in their buildings, said Doug Dolder, a response case manager at Solid Blend.