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VA Maryland Health Care System

 

Legionella Monitoring

Since the public water supply frequently contains trace amounts of Legionella, the VA Maryland Health Care System has instituted random testing and treatment of the water to protect the safety of our Veteran patients, employees, volunteers and visitors.  We would like to remind everyone that the water is safe to drink and use.  The efforts to test and treat the trace amounts of Legionella detected in the water supply are precautionary measures.  Additionally, we have developed the following Legionella guidance for your information.  .

What is Legionella?
Legionella is a bacterium found naturally in the environment.  L. pneumophila is the primary human pathogenic bacterium that causes Legionella pneumonia.

Why is it in our water? 
Almost all natural water sources contain Legionella, and the bacteria grow best in warm water.

How does Legionella lead to Legionella pneumonia?
Most healthy individuals do not become infected with Legionella bacteria after exposure.  Some people can develop Legionella pneumonia after breathing in a mist or vapor (small droplets of water in the air) containing the bacteria.

The people at higher risk of getting sick are:
•   Older people (50 years or older)
•   Current or former smokers
•   Those with a chronic lung disease (like COPD or emphysema)
•   Those with a weak immune system from diseases like cancer, diabetes or kidney failure
•    Those who take drugs that suppress the immune system (such as after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)

Legionella pneumonia is not transmitted from person to person.

Can I get Legionella pneumonia from drinking our tap water?
Generally speaking, a person cannot get Legionella pneumonia just by drinking water.  To be infected, they must breathe in mist or vapors containing the bacteria.

What are the symptoms of Legionella pneumonia?
Legionella pneumonia can have symptoms like many other forms of pneumonia.

Signs of Legionella pneumonia can include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headaches.  These symptoms usually begin 2 to 14 days after being exposed to the bacteria.

How do you confirm that someone has Legionella pneumonia?
No single clinical test by itself can diagnose Legionella pneumonia.  After a patient is diagnosed with pneumonia, the VA Maryland Health Care System uses a urinary antigen test to confirm that they have Legionella pneumonia.  A urinary antigen test is simple and quick and detects Legionella pneumonia in most cases.    

How do you treat Legionella pneumonia?
Legionella pneumonia requires treatment with common antibiotics.

What is the plan to prevent Legionella?
The VA Maryland Health Care System conducts random sampling of the water supply to test for Legionella and conducts hyper-chlorination of the water supply as a preventative measure when Legionella bacteria are identified.

Contact Info

Location

  • VA Maryland Health Care System

Contact Number(s)

  • 800-949-1003 Ext. 6554

Hours of Operation

  • Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.