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Legionella bacteria confirmed at Sacred Heart

Legionella bacteria — the cause of Legionnaires disease — has been confirmed in three patients who were treated at Sacred Heart Medical Center this year.

The bacteria was isolated in two patients in January and a third in March, the Spokane Regional Health District announced this afternoon. The federal Centers for Disease Control sent representatives to Spokane last week to investigate.

The hospital will use bottled water until the source of the contamination can be found. Water tanks at the hospital facilities are being flushed, and it’s likely that two tanks in older buildings will be replaced.

One of the patients with Legionella bacteria died, although that person was elderly and had multiple underlying conditions.

Legionnaires disease is so named because hundreds of World War II American Legionnaires fell ill with a mysterious, flu-like disease at a convention in Philadelphia in July 1976. More than 30 died of it. Epidemiologists finally identified the source, the hotel’s air-conditioning system.

More recently, an outbreak of Legionnaires disease at the Playboy mansion in Los Angeles sickened more than 70 people. The bacteria was traced to a hot tub there.


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