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U.S. CDC Releases Report on Legionnaires’ Disease and the Issues facing Healthcare Facilities

June 06, 2017

On June 6, 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a landmark report in their monthly journal VitalsignsTM on the deadly risks associated with Legionnaires’ disease and the concerns specific to healthcare facilities.  The report emphasizes that many people being treated at healthcare facilities are at higher risk of becoming infected with Legionnaires’ disease. The report also cites actions that healthcare facility leaders can take to prevent infections.   

The CDC highlighted the importance of effective water safety management programs to help reduce Legionella growth in healthcare plumbing systems. As a Legionella program partner of the CDC, Nalco Water, an Ecolab company, supports the CDC’s report on Legionnaires’ disease and works with healthcare facilities to reduce Legionella risks. 

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious and potentially deadly form of bacterial pneumonia.  Infection occurs when susceptible people inhale water droplets, sprays or mists contaminated with Legionella pneumophila or related bacterial species.  Legionella-contaminated water droplets can be spread by showers, faucets, hydrotherapy equipment such as jetted therapy pools, ice machines, cooling towers, decorative fountains and water features.

Key insights from the report include:

  • In 2015, there were approximately 6,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the U.S. 
  • The U.S. CDC reports that cases or outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease were associated with 72 unique healthcare facilities in the 21 jurisdictions analyzed (20 states and New York City) in 2015.
  • One in four people (25 percent) who contract Legionnaires’ disease from a healthcare facility will die. 
  • Healthcare facility leaders need to be aware that Legionnaires’ disease is a risk in their facility.
  • A water safety management program can reduce Legionella growth and spread in buildings.
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) expects Medicare certified healthcare facilities to have water management policies and procedures to reduce the risk of growth and spread of Legionella and other opportunistic pathogens in building water systems.

People who are most susceptible to infection are those over the age of 50, current or former smokers and people with chronic disease or a weakened immune system.  The CDC highlighted that most issues that lead to U.S. healthcare-associated outbreaks could be prevented with an effective water safety management program.

For more than 25 years, Nalco Water has partnered with building owners, facility managers, environmental risk managers and infection prevention specialists to develop Water Safety Management Programs, each customized for their specific operations. This level of expertise helps ensure that potable and utility water systems perform to the health and performance standards necessary for the safety of employees, guests, patients, tenants and visitors.

“Safe water is critical for the health and well-being of people everywhere,” said Stephen Anderson, vice president and general manager, Institutional, Nalco Water. “The release from the CDC further underscores the challenges companies face every day.  At Nalco Water, we understand the importance of Water Safety and continue to develop water management plans, training programs and offerings that help our customers and the public reduce the risks associated with Legionella.”

For more information, contact watersafetyinquiry@ecolab.com.


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